This year’s Champions League group of death sparked into life last night as Napoli beat Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at the Stadio San Paolo and Rafa Benitez’s side sit joint-top of group F with Arsenal, who won by the same scoreline in Marseille.
With the former winner and two-time finalist with Liverpool at the helm the Serie A leaders can start dreaming about May’s final in Portugal and are now level with Italian champions Juventus at 18/1 to lift the trophy.
Benitez presided over some excellent transfer business over the summer, with the £55m Napoli received from PSG for striker Edinson Cavani handed over to Real Madrid in exchange for Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon.
While the Uruguayan posted a league-best tally of 29 Serie A goals in 34 appearances as Napoli stormed to second place last season, Higuain – whose opener against Dortmund was his third in four games for the Azzurri – has a strike-rate to suggest he will be a more than adequate replacement.
The Argentinean bagged more than 20 La Liga goals in three of his six seasons at the Bernabeu and managed to find the back of the net 16 times last season despite making just 19 league starts.
Defender Albiol is just shy of 50 appearances in continental competition after eight European campaigns in a row with Real and Valencia, while forward Callejon scored six goals in 13 games over two Champions League campaigns with Los Blancos.
However, the key value in this bet lies with a manager that led Liverpool to four Champions League quarter-finals in his first five years at Anfield and oversaw a period when the Merseyside club were ranked the best team in Europe by UEFA.
At Chelsea last year Benitez took over a team practically out of the Champions League and delivered the Europa League trophy to Stamford Bridge, while also holding on to third place and handing old foe Jose Mourinho another shot at Europe’s elite competition this season.
His new charges have seen off all comers so far this term with four wins out of four in all competitions and now the bookies are taking them seriously – there are currently only eight teams in front of them in the betting with bwin – it could be the time to lump on.