A new campaign means a new-look Italy team for Prandelli. The road to the World Cup in Brazil 2014 starts with a trip to Sofia to take on Bulgaria this evening.
The Azzuri's record against Bulgaria is not the best with two defeats and two draws, with six goals conceded, going back to 1968, their most recent meeting ending in a goalless draw in a World Cup qualifier in 2010.
Some would say that after the surprise second place finish in the Euros last summer that the start of a new World Cup campaign is not the time to start experimenting, but Prandelli sees things differently. Partly due to injury, partly due to Prandelli's faith in the latest crop of young Italians will most probably see a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3 formation with a brand new strike partnership up front.
With Balotelli out requiring eye surgery and Cassano given more time to work on his fitness Prandelli will pair Juventus' creative playmaker Sebastian Giovinco with Roma's Argentinian-born in-form forward Pablo Osvaldo. Osvaldo has represented the Azzurri during the qualifiers for Euro 2012 but was left out of the squad for the tournament itself. The signs are good though as he has scored twice in Roma's two opening games.
Roma's Daniele Osvaldo
Of the four forwards making the trip to Sofia Fabio Borini of Liverpool, Mattia Destro and Pablo Osvaldo of Roma, and Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli have a combined four caps and no goals between them. Insigne impressed last year on loan to Pescara scoring 19 goals in 33 games, helping them to the Serie B title. AC Milan's summer acquisition from Inter Pazzini is on fire, scoring a hat-trick against Bologna last weekend and can certainly make a difference off the bench.
The rest of the team are a grizzled, experienced bunch however, with Pirlo of course will orchestrate everything from midfield, De Rossi has shrugged off an ankle injury to add steel there where he will be joined by Claudio Marchisio, Cristian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini. Torino centre-back Angelo Ogbonna is the least experienced player in the back with only three caps but played with authority in Italy's friendly loss to England.
Giampaolo Pazzini celebrates his hat-trick against Bologna
Prandelli is perfectly placed to capitalise on the wealth of young Italian talent who are getting plenty of game time in Serie A. Many of the Italian clubs chose not to spend on bring in highly paid foreign stars and are instead relaying on home grown youth lead the way. Partly due to financial constraints and Italian financial prudence in challenging economic times with an eye on UEFA's financial fair play rules due to come into effect, the upside is Prandelli is spoiled for choice of in-form youth. Of the 11 players that started for AC Milan against Bologna, 10 were Italian. Juventus had sought to bring in a foreign striker but in the end had to settle for Niklas Bentdner on loan from Arsenal.
Sebastian Giovinco is becoming one of Prandelli's favourites
Serie A's loss is Italy's gain, Prandelli said: "I remember watching the super cup between Inter and Roma two years ago when there was a total of four (Italian) starters. This year there were many more. I'm not sure if the change is due purely to economic reasons, but the clubs are developing more young players and that's definitely an advantage to the national team."
"When you're in a crisis you need to find new options, be innovative and take some risks," he continued. "All of the managers are going to feel like they need to do something extra this season. They don't have the big stars available anymore."
Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli is uncapped by the Azzuri
Bulgaria are at a low point with ther current FIFA ranking their lowest FIFA ranking ever of 94 and with their highest ever scorer Dimaitar Berbatov in self imposd exile and their most capped player ever Stiliyan Petrov battling leukaemia the 'Lions' face a difficult task to qulify from a difficult group that includes Italy, Czech Republic, Denmark, Armenia and Malta. They do look to have made progress under new manager Lyuboslav Penev, paricularly after a 2-1 victory of the Netherlands.
Sofia is a difficult place to go and play and Prandelli will be hoping hisnew boys can deliver. Away match points will be at apremium in this game so it's vital Italy get soething from the game. The first match of a new campaign is always a perilous juncture but you would have to believe in Italy's quality to come through.