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 By Ben Gladwell

Napoli president urges fans to back Rafael Benitez in Serie A title bid

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has called on his club's fans to support Rafael Benitez as he aims to deliver their first Serie A title since 1990.

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The Spanish coach has come under fire for his side's defeat in the Champions League playoffs by Athletic Bilbao, while De Laurentiis has been accused by the fans of failing to deliver top players in this summer's transfer market.

The atmosphere around the club is currently low, but De Laurentiis says the Partenopei now need unity if they are to fulfil their objectives, insisting Benitez is the right man to lead them to glory.

"I've heard a lot of things said these days, but what I want to do is express my total faith in this squad," De Laurentiis told Radio Kiss Kiss. "This Napoli is stronger than the one from last season. The team have grown together in terms of their play and their experience, and they are led by a great coach.

"We can win, we just have to be united -- the club and the fans. We need to be aware that we have a very competitive side with great professionals, many international players and with some new arrivals who are certainly good enough."

Napoli finished third last season, 24 points behind champions Juventus and seven adrift of second-placed Roma.

By finishing third, they did not secure an automatic berth in the group stage of the Champions League, leading to their playoff disappointment -- a situation De Larentiis feels the club can better in the new campaign.

Napoli lost 4-2 to Athletic Bilbao on aggregate as they missed out on qualifying for the Champions League group stages.

"Above everything else, we had numerous injuries last year which did not enable us to get the best out of our squad," continued De Laurentiis. "One above all was [Juan] Zuniga, who is now back and provided the assist for [Julian] De Guzman in Genoa. And for the second year in a row, we have a great coach in Rafa Benitez, a winning coach who knows perfectly well what it takes to win.

"If I were to listen to all the opinions, I would never be able to produce anything definite. I only listen to Rafa Benitez and I trust in his experience and his great ability. Together with him, we have started and we are continuing an important project."

That project did not necessarily foresee a season without Champions League football, for which De Laurentiis has blamed misfortune. "Other sides were given clubs with lower value in the draw, but we got a huge club," he added. "But now we've got to move on and plan for the future with faith because we are the only Italian club to have qualified for Europe five years in a row.

"The scudetto that we all want will arrive sooner or later, but we have got to know how to build for it with serenity and consistency. I think we can do very well."


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