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International Friendly: Italy v Rep of Ireland

Head coach Cesare Prandelli signed a contract extension on Monday, which will keep him in the job beyond the UEFA European Championships in 2016.

That sense of stability can only aid Italy as they prepare for two friendlies ahead of the World Cup, the first of which sees them take on Martin O'Neill's Ireland team at Craven Cottage.

Italy's chief of medical staff, Enrico Castellacci, explained that the squad was in good shape, with Prandelli yet to cut his provisional 30-man party down to the final 23.

"The state of the health of the team is good enough, except for a few obvious muscle problems seen in recent days because the boys have worked so much," Castellacci said.

"For the rest, everything is fine, nothing to worry about it. The players are adapting well."

Their form on the field has been less than impressive in recent months, however, with no win in five games in all competitions since a 2-1 win over Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier back in September.

The four-time world champions are hoping to put an end to that run as they bid to put a nightmare 2010 campaign behind them when, under Marcello Lippi, they crashed out at the group stages without recording a single victory.

Lippi had guided them to glory on the world stage just four years earlier, and the man tasked with repeating that feat has now secured his long-term future in the job.

Giuseppe Rossi, who missed the second half of the domestic season after suffering a knee injury, is "working well", according to Castellacci, while Mario Balotelli and Andrea Barzagli are also showing positive signs after knocks.

Ireland, meanwhile, will want to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat to Turkey on Sunday, when Jon Walters' late consolation was not enough to rescue them from a second defeat in succession under O'Neill.

Having failed to qualify for the finals in Brazil, Ireland are looking ahead to their Euro qualifiers beginning in September, and O'Neill sees Saturday's match, as well as forthcoming friendlies with Costa Rica and Portugal, as a chance to experiment with different formations.

"People say I’m a 4-4-2 man," he told the Irish Post. "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 matches because this is the time to do that - not in September when the Euros start."