A fit and firing Mario Balotelli is the key to reinvigorating Cesare Prandelli's sluggish Italy during tomorrow night's 2014 World Cup qualifier in Armenia, according to the Azzurri head coach.
The mercurial Manchester City striker made a big splash at this summer's European Championships, with his well-taken brace guiding Italy beyond Germany and into a final showdown with Spain.
The Azzurri would come undone against the world champions, slumping to a 4-0 defeat in Kiev, and Balotelli has not featured for his national side since.
Prandelli was subsequently unhappy that Balotelli chose to have eye surgery rather than participate in the opening Group B games against Bulgaria and Malta, but the ex-Fiorentina coach insists that is all water under the bridge as he plots the conquest of Armenia.
Quoted in the Gazzetta dello Sport, he told reporters in Yerevan: ``I have talked about positional play and about specific situations with Balotelli over the last few days. That's all.
``He's been highly focused this week. All the players have shown up more motivated than the last time and even the practice matches have been more intense.''
An unconvincing draw against Bulgaria and a slim victory over Malta have left Prandelli eager to find a strike partnership that can put future results beyond doubt.
Roma forward Pablo Osvaldo is likely to get the nod to play alongside Balotelli at the Hrazdan Stadium.
``We need to rediscover our intensity,'' he added. ``We need to start respecting the opposition again.
``This will be the 10th attacking pair I've used. We're looking for something that works and we might even try a trident in the future.''
Armenia are ranked 56 places below Italy in the FIFA rankings, but that means precious little to Prandelli.
He added: ``It will be a difficult game. We may be the team to beat but we're quite calm because we know we've prepared well.
``Armenia are an evolving, modern team, who are good going forward.
``I have no fears in this group. But I need to make sure everybody is aware of exactly what faces them.''
Armenia boss Vardan Minasyan must cope without suspended duo Marcos Pizzelli and Gevorg Ghazaryan as he plots a result to send shockwaves around Europe.
He said: ``Armenia are ready, despite our suspensions and injuries.
``Italy are strong, they've always been strong, but they used to rely on 'catenaccio' and playing a defensive game.
``Now with Prandelli they're more creative and dangerous going forward. We'll do our best but to get a result we'll need a good dose of luck.
``Italy won't be scared of us. They only won 2-0 against Malta but if they'd wanted to they could have scored a lot more.
``They're one of those teams who can draw when they want, or win 1-0 when they want, and so they're capable of getting whatever result they need at the time.''