MILAN - Despite Italy's Confederations Cup flop and concerns about a lack of creativity in the side, coach Marcello Lippi has made only limited changes to his squad for Saturday's World Cup qualifier in Georgia.
Lippi has settled on a 4-4-2 formation rather than the awkward 4-3-3 but the World Cup winner is under the media microscope more than ever after losses to Egypt and Brazil in the Confederations tournament in June.
The former Juventus boss has defended his decision to again snub Sampdoria playmaker Antonio Cassano and selected eight Juve players for the Group Eight leaders' trip to Tbilisi.
"Juventus have targeted Italian players so it's natural they command my attention," Lippi told a news conference, pointing out Fabio Cannavaro and Fabio Grosso were new Juve signings.
"With Cassano, like I respect the opinions of others, others should respect mine."
Italy, a point above Ireland having played a game less, have not scored in three matches including last month's 0-0 friendly with Switzerland where the 4-4-2 formation had patchy success.
Who will occupy the left flank remains unclear with Antonio Di Natale really a striker and Marco Marchionni, recalled after a three-year absence, a right winger who could fill in.
WAITING FOR PASSPORT
Marchionni would have been a record-equalling ninth Juve player in the squad had he not moved to Fiorentina in the close season while Juve's Brazilian-born striker Amauri is waiting for an Italian passport and will soon be eligible for the Azzurri.
The Turin club's midfielder Claudio Marchisio, who debuted against the Swiss, is doubtful for Saturday with a thigh knock but could make Wednesday's home match with Bulgaria in Turin.
Midfielder Daniele De Rossi is suspended for the first game and Gennaro Gattuso is injured, which could open the door for Sampdoria's Angelo Palombo alongside out-of-form Andrea Pirlo.
Georgia, bottom with three points from seven games, are without suspended striker Alexandre Iashvili but coach Hector Cuper should be able to hand captain Kakha Kaladze his first appearance this year after surgery on his left knee in March.
Georgia: Giorgi Lomaia; Ucha Lobzhanidze, Kakha Kaladze, Zurab Khizanishvili, Amiran Sanaia; Zurab Menteshashvili, Levan Tskitishvili, Levan Kobiashvili, Levan Kenia, Jano Ananidze; Vladimer Dvalishvili
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Grosso; Mauro Camoranesi, Andrea Pirlo, Angelo Palombo, Antonio Di Natale; Giuseppe Rossi, Alberto Gilardino.comments