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Leagues: Serie A

We’ve moved on from Higuain departure – Napoli’s Jorginho

Naples (Italy) (AFP) – Napoli midfielder Jorginho insists his team have moved on from Gonzalo Higuain’s shock departure to Juventus as they prepare to face Portuguese giants Benfica in the Champions League. 

Napoli, runners-up to Juventus in Serie A last season, host Benfica at the San Paolo in Group B on Wednesday looking to continue their bright start to this season’s competition.

And while some fans may still regret the absence of Higuain, who hit a Serie A record of 36 goals for the southerners last season, Jorginho says Napoli have fully digested the Argentine striker’s move to Turin.

“We’re not thinking about him,” Jorginho told media on the eve of Wedneday’s match in Naples. 

“Our focus is on ourselves and how to improve. We would have the same approach if he (Higuain) were here, but we’re doing well and we can do even better.”

Napoli have so far adapted to life without Higuain rather well as they embark on a first Champions League group-stage campaign since 2013, when they were eliminated behind Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal despite the Argentine scoring four goals.

The Partenopei are undefeated after six games in Serie A, boast a league-leading 14 goals (along with Roma) and are just one point behind leaders and champions Juventus.

To boot, Polish international Arkadiusz Milik has made a blistering start to life as Higuain’s replacement after signing for a reported 35 million euros ($39.3 million, £30.2 million) from Ajax. 

The 22-year-old has hit four league goals and, while Higuain hit a blank in a scoreless draw at home to Sevilla two weeks ago, Milik headed a brace in the space of 11 first-half minutes to help secure a come-from-behind 2-1 win at Dynamo Kiev in Napoli’s Group B opener.

Those early achievements have already assured Milik legendary status at Napoli — at the food stalls lining the San Paolo, fans can now buy a ‘Milik’ sandwich along with those usually only named after the team’s big stars.

While Napoli were winning in Kiev, Benfica were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Besiktas, who had on-loan Benfica mifielder Anderson Talisca to thank for the sensational last-gasp free-kick that earned them a share of the points.

But coach Maurizio Sarri will not be taking Benfica lightly. 

He has studied all their recent matches and believes their build-up and possession game could give Napoli problems, not to mention the “amazing talent” that is teenage winger Goncalo Guedes. 

“Benfica are a strong side with good technique and they love to have possession during games,” said Sarri.

“They like to build from the back and it won’t be easy to win the ball back and force them to make mistakes.”

Rui Vitoria’s men gave Bayern Munich a fright in last season’s quarter-finals before the Germans secured their last-four ticket thanks to a 3-2 aggregate win.

Benfica’s 1-0 first-leg loss in that fixture was their last defeat of any kind. They are now 17 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

“They are a top European side who gave Bayern (Munich) a scare last season,” added Sarri.

Asked about the threat of Guedes, a 19-year-old winger who has been described as ‘the new Cristiano Ronaldo’, Sarri admitted: “I’ve seen him play in a few of Benfica’s games. He’s an amazing talent.”

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