With the Italian national team call-ups right around the corner, there are plenty of decisions Cesare Prandelli has to make as he looks to bring 30 initial players to camp before he has to trim the squad size down to 23 for the 2014 World Cup.
Even though the Serie A has plummeted in recent years, there's a steady influx of young technical players ready to make their case on the senior side, and this is one of the first times in history that we'll see an Azzurri squad that has more weapons up front than at the back.
Historically, Italy has had a wall in the defense and played a cautious approach known around the world as "Catenaccio." That type of play has now been virtually eradicated from the national side as well as the Serie A, and a new free-flowing era has emerged under Cesare Prandelli that focuses on possession.
The coach is expected to make his initial call-ups early next week, and here are some of the biggest surprises we might see:
With Gianluigi Buffon slotted in as the first choice and Salvatore Sirigu as the backup, the third-string position will go to a youngster. The two options are Genoa's Mattia Perin and 17-year-old teenage wonder kid Simone Scuffet, who won the starting job with Udinese.
There won't be too many surprises in the defense, as the back line will include the Juventus trio as well as the Milan full-back pairing of Mattia De Sciglio and Ignazio Abate.
Gabriel Paletta should be the primary defensive substitute. He had a great season with Parma and is a tough presence in the heart of the back four.
Expect Italy's weakness to be on the flanks as both De Sciglio and Abate haven't even been able to win consistent starting spots with Milan. However, Italy doesn't have too much choice in this department.
He would essentially be taking Emanuele Giaccherini's position in the team. Giaccherini isn't expected to be called up, and it wouldn't really be too shocking as his spell at Sunderland hasn't exactly produced thrills for the player or the team.
The biggest enigma, however, is Cesare Prandelli's relationship with the youngster Marco Verratti. The young Paris St. Germain midfielder isn't assured a spot in the squad.
Here's where it gets really fun. No one has a clue about what the coach will do here. Is Mario Balotelli really guaranteed a starting spot anymore with the way Ciro Immobile has exploded on the scene?
Also, is Ciro Immobile a lock to go to Brazil, or will Prandelli go with Roma's Mattia Destro?
The latest reports would hint that Immobile has the advantage over Destro, as Prandelli himself, in an interview with Corriere dello Sport (h/t RTE Sport), said that the Torino striker plays with a "more free mentality."
There are still plenty of questions surrounding this department of the Italian national team, but one thing will be sure: It'll be a deep, technical unit that can break down some of the best defenses in the world.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!