Higuain, Tevez and the contenders to be Serie A top scorer this season

The departure of last season’s top scorer Ciro Immobile means the race for the Capocannoniere is wide open heading into the new term. Goal takes a look at the main contenders

Serie A returns this weekend and it is set to be an enticing and competitive campaign as several teams look to bring an end to Juventus’ era of dominance.

Following the transfer of last season’s Serie A top goalscorer, Ciro Immobile from Torino to Borussia Dortmund, the race for the Capocannoniere is wide open with main candidates Juventus, Napoli, Roma and Fiorentina being led by strikers who will all be looking to finish top of the goalscorer charts.

After a successful first season with Napoli, Gonzalo Higuain enters the new campaign as one of the favourites to top the scorer charts. The Argentine striker joined the Partenopei from Real Madrid and linked up well with Jose Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik, scoring 17 times. Fully settled into the team and with Rafael Benitez’s side looking to mount a stronger challenge for the title, Higuain, boosted by the support of Michu, will have better service and will be confident of improving on his tally this term.

Following the departure of coach Antonio Conte, there is a growing feeling that Juventus’ reign of dominance is set to come to an end. However, the Bianconeri should still be confident of winning a fourth consecutive league title as they head into the new campaign with the same squad. Crucial to the Old Lady’s title hopes is striker Carlos Tevez. The Argentine scored 19 goals last term, only one of which was a penalty. The former Manchester City forward will be confident of racking up a similar record this year as his partnership with Fernando Llorente continues to flourish.

Despite starting only 19 games last season, Giuseppe Rossi netted 16 goals for Fiorentina. His conversion rate of nearly 35 per cent was the highest of anyone in the top 10 goalscorer chart. Worries have already been expressed over his knee heading into this campaign, but with the Viola looking to improve on their fourth place finish, Rossi, if fit will be critical and has a great chance of improving on his record.

Luca Toni
, who finished runner up in the scorer charts last season will fancy his chances of at least matching his remarkable tally of 20 for Hellas. However, the loss of Romulo, who set up eight goals last season, on loan to Juventus and the sale of Juan Iturbe to Roma severely lowers the quality of service to the Italy international.

Two-time Capocannoniere winner Antonio Di Natale will be looking to bow out in style by topping the charts once again while Juve forward Fernando Llorente will feel he has to improve on his record of 16 goals in 34 appearances last term.

With Inter looking to recover from another poor season, a lot of their hopes rely on Rodrigo Palacio who remains their main goal threat, having scored 17 times in 2013-14.

Mattia Destro has the potential to play a crucial role for Roma as they look to build on their magnificent 2013-campaign. No striker in last year’s top 30 had a higher shot conversion rate than the 23-year-old’s rate of 37% as he scored 13 non-penalty goals in 14 starts last term.

Higuain: Napoli have to be in the Champions League

The striker was angered by his side’s failure to beat Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday and has urged them to complete the job at the San Mames

Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain was left angry after his side’s 1-1 Champions League draw with Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

Rafael Benitez’s men fell behind following Iker Muniain’s first-half goal, but Higuain’s 68th-minute effort ensured honours were even heading into next week’s play-off second leg in Spain.

However, the Argentina forward felt his side should have done more and was enraged at the prospect of the club missing out on the competition proper.

“The truth is I don’t feel like talking right now,” Higuain – who was visibly angered after the final whistle – told Sky Sport Italia.

“Napoli have to play in the Champions League.

“We’ll have prepare well for the next match. We have to go there to win and Napoli have to do it.

“We have the team to achieve this.”

Winning in Bilbao will be no easy task for the Naples-based Serie A club, with Athletic dropping just two La Liga matches at home last term.

Benitez: Higuain is angry

The striker saved his side with a second half strike but his coach revealed the Argentine was left frustrated by their performance on the night

Napoli boss Rafa Benitez said Gonzalo Higuain was “angry” in the dressing room after scoring the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.

Iker Muniain put the La Liga side 1-0 up in the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round tie, but the Argentine salvaged a draw with his 68th minute strike.

The draw gives Athletic the advantage heading into the second leg at San Mames and Benitez revealed Higuain and the rest of the squad were disappointed with the result.

He said: “Higuain is angry, like everyone, as we expected a tough game and to win it. At least it means he’ll put even more determination and anger into the second leg.”

Napoli were undone by the intensity of Ernesto Valverde’s side and Benitez admitted as much after the game, but insisted he still saw the result as a positive one.

“Athletic Bilbao are an intense side who work hard, but at the start we had two or three great scoring opportunities. We didn’t, and with their intensity Athletic took control,” he added.

“Considering the way the game went, we can consider our reaction positive and must begin again from that.

“Athletic will certainly go out there to win (the second leg), which means they want to score and so do we. I have confidence, of course it won’t be easy, but today we proved with five or six scoring opportunities that we can hurt them.”

Lorenzo Insigne endured a night to forget and was booed by his own supporters after being subsituted in the second period, to which he responded with a sarcastic gesture, though Benitez was quick to play down the incident.

Insigne is Neapolitan, wants to impress his people and it’s not always easy to keep control of those intense emotions at this level.” 

Napoli and Athletic Bilbao meet in the second leg at San Mames on August 27.

Higuain: Messi didn't make me want to ditch Napoli

The Argentine forward played down suggestions he wanted to join Barcelona this summer, but talked up the possibility of Rafa Benitez’s men toppling Juventus

Gonzalo Higuain has claimed Lionel Messi failed to convince him to join Barcelona this summer but joked his Argentina team-mate should move to Napoli.

During the World Cup group stages, before Luis Suarez’s move from Liverpool became a reality, there were strong rumours that the ex-Real Madrid attacker would be swapping the San Paolo for a return to La Liga this summer with the Catalunya club.

Messi conceded it would be brilliant to play alongside his Argentina team-mate on a weekly basis at Camp Nou in June, but Higuain insists that he was never swayed by the four-time Ballon d’Or winner to ditch Napoli after a single season.

“Did I want to go to Barcelona? I always told the truth and that is that I wanted to think only of the World Cup and then I would return to Napoli,” the striker told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“So I kept quiet and I had nothing to fear, because there was nothing to comment about.

“Messi said certain things and I can only be flattered by them. I believe that every player would love to play alongside a great champion like him, but that does not mean that I ever wanted to leave.

“But if Messi came to Napoli, that would be great.”

Higuain mused that Antonio Conte’s departure from Scudetto holders Juventus will level the playing field for the rest of Serie A’s top clubs and predicts a better showing from him and Rafa Benitez’s men than 2013-14′s third-place finish.

“Although there is no Conte, Massimiliano Allegri is a good coach so Juventus will still be the opponent to beat,” the 26-year-old added.

“Roma have reinforced and Rudi Garcia has a strong team, yet this year they are involved in the Champions League which will take away some of their energy, whereas last year they had no Europe to deal with.

“So it will definitely be a more balanced league. I do not think that there’s a team capable of getting 102 points this season like Juve did last season.

“The advantage we have over the last year is that our project in motion, we know Serie A now and we have learned that we must not drop points against the smaller teams.

“Our failures should not happen again, we will always have the same attitude in every title race.”

Benitez: No favourites in World Cup final

The Napoli boss believes Argentina boast the tournament’s most “explosive” forward line but says Germany have been the stronger side in Brazil

Rafael Benitez believes there is nothing to choose between Germany and Argentina ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final.

The Napoli boss has been impressed by the performances of Joachim Low’s men, who kicked off their campaign with a 4-0 rout of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and reached the tournament decider courtesy of a stunning 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil.

Argentina have, by contrast, found goals difficult to come by but Benitez still believes that in Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero they possess the most lethal front-line in international football.

“I don’t know about you, but I struggle to find a favourite in the World Cup final,” the Spanish coach wrote in Corriere dello Sport.

“A game like this, which puts Germany and Argentina on the field, cannot persuade you to believe that one squad is, on paper, stronger than the other.

“You might think that there are certain details to favour one side over the other, but one cannot make a clear and absolute judgement.

“It’s certainly true that Germany, from what we’ve seen since their first game a month ago, have made the greater impression …

“However, at the same time, in the final they will face Messi, Higuain and Aguero and there is no harder test. There cannot be more formidable opponents; there cannot be a more explosive combination to contain.

“It’s true that they’re saying that because of certain tactical attitudes and the exceptional 7-1 win in the semi-final, that the European squad has the concrete possibility of being able to win the World Cup in South America for the first time.

“But Germany are aware of the need to control those three fantastic players up front for Argentina.

“Whatever happens, [on Sunday] evening, history will be made.”