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De Laurentiis talks up Napoli's elite credentials

Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis insists Napoli deserve to be considered a member of Italian football's elite and has rejected suggestions of the team being too reliant on Gonzalo Higuain.

Napoli are second in Serie A, two points behind Juventus, who dropped important points in a 0-0 draw at Bologna on Friday - the first time the champions have failed to win in the last 16 league games.

Maurizio Sarri's challengers have the opportunity to go top if they beat AC Milan at Stadio San Paolo on Monday, while many observers believe this is Napoli's best chance to win the Scudetto since the Diego Maradona-inspired triumphs of 1986-87 and 1989-90.

But De Laurentiis does not believe his team will fall away from regular contention if they fail to finish first this season.

"For five years Napoli have been told this fairy-tale that it's 'now or never,' but the truth is we are now in the elite," he told Radio Kiss Kiss.

Napoli suffered narrow losses in each of their last two matches, 1-0 at title rivals Juve and away to Villarreal by the same scoreline in the Europa League round-of-32 first leg on Thursday.

According to De Laurentiis, firing blanks in those key outings is no reason to panic at a crucial point in the campaign.

"Although we did not manage to score in these games, we had scored 78 goals in 34 games, which is incredible," he said. 

"Everyone says how we are dependent on Gonzalo Higuain, however, every big team relies on their star players."

Argentina international Higuain has been in red-hot form for Napoli this season, scoring 24 goals in 25 league games.