Italy will start their final run of matches in preparation of the 2014 World Cup with a fixture against Ireland on Saturday, as the Azzurri go looking for their first win since September 2013.
Cesare Prandelli is yet to name his final squad of 23 players, opening the door for some of the team's fringe players to make an impact on Saturday in an attempt to make the final squad.
Ireland are widely expected to experiment with both their squad and formation as they look to find the winning formula for Euro 2016 qualification, so Italy should be able to gain some much-needed confidence with a big win on Saturday.
Date: Saturday, May 31
Time: 7.45. p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Craven Cottage, London
TV info and live stream: The match will be broadcast by Setanta and Premier Sports, with mobile coverage available via the Premier Player.
The four-time world champions will be looking for both answers and a much-needed result when they take on Ireland on Saturday, as the team have yet to find their true identity and haven't won a match in five tries.
Prandelli loves to play around with formations, but Italy's lack of preferred line-up has seen the team struggle in recent months. Injury and poor form haven't aided their situation, and both are factors Prandelli will have to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
As shared by PhysioRoom.com News, Giuseppe Rossi's availability for the upcoming World cup could be decided during Saturday's fixture:
Guiseppe Rossi WC in the balance "Clinically, he is fine but he will be evaluated during the game (vs Ireland) it is up to Prandelli" #Italy— PhysioRoom.com News (@physioroom) May 29, 2014
Rossi was instrumental for the success of Fiorentina during the first half of the Serie A season before injury cut his campaign short, and the forward has been recovering ever since in an attempt to return to health for Brazil.
For all of their attacking talent, forward is perhaps the one position where Italy lack in experience with Antonio Cassano having struggled for much of the season with Parma and the controversial Mario Balotelli being the only other player (along with Rossi) with more than 10 caps.
Per Zonal Marking's Michael Cox, those latter two haven't impressed Prandelli all that much in training:
"... both Balotelli and Cassano were reprimanded during training when perceived by Prandelli to be not putting in maximum effort" - no way!— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) May 29, 2014
Italy have experimented with several formations in recent weeks but have focused their attention on the ones with four at the back so far, indicating the 3-5-2 could be on its way out.
A 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 could see the Juventus threesome broken up, with one of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci forced to start from the bench.
Martin O'Neill is also looking to experiment with his formation, as he told The Irish Post's Garry Doyle:
"People say I’m a 4-4-2 man but I used 3-5-2 for years at Celtic and Leicester. I’m open to change and will try things out over the course of these four matches because this is the time to do that — not in September when the Euros start."
Ireland specifically chose a difficult set of matches to close out the 2013-14 season, with Portugal and Costa Rica also still on the calendar. Focus will be key for the Irish, who know they'll be facing three teams trying to round into World Cup form.
The Azzurri are flying under the radar going into the World Cup, which is somewhat surprising for a four-time winner, but the team still have a lot of work to do before they can travel to Brazil high on confidence.
Finding a preferred formation and reducing the squad to the 23 best players is a good place to start, and putting together a strong performance against Ireland can only help boost the morale of a team in desperate need of every boost they can get.