Friday September 7 2012
Line-ups: Bulgaria-Italy

Italy return to the 3-5-2 system for tonight’s opening World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria, fielding Daniele De Rossi, Sebastian Giovinco and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo.

The Azzurri begin the road to Brazil 2014 in Sofia, where Coach Cesare Prandelli’s side kicks off at 19.45 UK time.

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Having shelved this tactic during Euro 2012, Prandelli has returned to the 3-5-2 with an all-Turin based defence of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Angelo Ogbonna.

Bizarrely, Emanuele Giaccherini also gets a start despite not featuring for Juventus yet this season.

Napoli’s Christian Maggio takes the other wing, with Giovinco partnering Roma hitman Osvaldo in attack.

Roma midfielder De Rossi was a major doubt to start after picking up an ankle injury, but has shaken it off to start.

Mario Balotelli is ruled out by an eye operation, joining the not 100 per cent fit Giorgio Chiellini and Antonio Cassano.

Bulgaria had thought Dimitar Berbatov would come out of international retirement for this qualifying campaign, but the Fulham forward confirmed he is sticking only to club football.

Instead, Ivelin Popov takes the centre-forward role in a very defensive 4-5-1 approach.

Group B also includes Armenia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Malta.

Bulgaria: Mihaylov; Y Minev, V Minev, Ivanov, Manolev; Bodurov, Gadzhev, Milanov, Dyakov, Gagorov; Popov

Italy: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Giaccherini, Marchisio, De Rossi, Pirlo, Maggio; Giovinco, Osvaldo

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