Cesare Prandelli knows his side will have its hands full with Serbia.
If there is one flaw to the mentality of the Italian National Team, it is that it does not play every match with the intention of giving a full effort.
Players realize a season is long and often will not press as hard unless it is absolutely necessary.
Take case in point, Italy’s scoreless tie with Northern Ireland on Friday. Italy had defeated Northern Ireland 3-0 in a friendly with many second-tier players in 2009, and probably did not take the match as seriously as it should have.
But Tuesday night, when the Azzurri takes the field in Genoa against Serbia, there will be no joking around.
If there is one team the Azzurri fears and has total respect for, it is Serbia. Italy has played against Serbia when it was still connected with Montenegro three times, and all three matches ended in 1-1 draws.
Serbia is coming off of a 2-1 loss at home to Estonia on Friday. But with a star-studded lineup that includes several players who have played their trade in Serie A, the Italians are well aware of the capabilities of the Serbian players.
Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United and Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea lead the defense and are joined by former Udinese player Aleksander Lukovic. Manchester City left back Aleksander Kolarov, who moved to the club this summer from Lazio, is out with an ankle injury.
Serbia’s midfield is solid with Inter Milan veteran and captain Dejan Stankovic in the center of the midfield. While Stankovic is a world-class player, he did appear to be tired late in the match a week and a half ago when Inter and Juventus played to a draw.
But Juventus right wing Milos Krasic was probably the best player on the field that day. Many of his teammates are aware of that and are expecting him to cause trouble. Milan Jovanovic of Liverpool is another midfielder to watch for.
If there is anything Serbia lacks, it is a proven goal scorer.
Italy comes into the match with coach Cesare Prandelli still experimenting with his lineup. Just a select few have starting jobs secured. Midfielders Andea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi and central defender Giorgio Chiellini are the only certainties.
Although Prandelli has many options to choose from, he has experimented with having the Sampdoria duo of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini start together up front in their home stadium. Another Sampdoria player, central defender Daniele Gastaldello, could join Chiellini in the middle.
Genoa’s Domenico Criscito is expected to stay in his role on the left side of the defense, even though Criscito played poorly at the World Cup and Prandelli has many quality alternatives to choose from.
If Prandelli chooses to play with a third forward, AS Roma’s Marco Borriello could be that player. Lazio’s Stefano Mauri may also get another shot alongside Pirlo and De Rossi in the midfield. Bologna’s Emiliano Viviano is expected to get another shot at starting in goal.
This should be a low-scoring affair. One should expect to see yet another draw.