Milan - World champion coach Marcello Lippi kicked off his second World Cup qualifying campaign with Italy preaching modesty ahead of a first game away to minnows Cyprus.
The Group 8 qualifier to be played late Saturday in the seaside town of Larnaca poses little threat for the Azzurri, but the returning coach has stubbornly refused to consider his side the favourite.
"Thinking that the game against Cyprus will be a picnic is absolutely out of place," Lippi said. "Today nothing is easy. It is necessary to prepare each game in the best way.
"Let's also consider that our league has just begun, therefore, at the moment, the team isn't completely trained. Two games in a few days could be hard to handle, which suggests me to do some changes."
The Azzurri squad play at home against Georgia on September 10 and are widely indicated as favourites in Group 8, where they are to tackle also Bulgaria, Ireland and Montenegro.
Lippi, who resigned after lifting Italy's fourth World Cup in 2006, was rehired in the summer when his successor Roberto Donadoni only made it to the quarter finals at Euro
Although Cyprus never made it to any international tournament, they managed four wins in the qualification phase to Euro 2008, including successes against Ireland and Wales.
Enthusiasm can be the hosts' best weapon as Cypriot football is on a high after the first-ever qualification to the Champions League of Anorthosis Famagusta and two other clubs in the UEFA Cup.
In the Mediterranean island, Lippi takes a group with many of the players who triumphed in Berlin in 2006 and who will have on their jersey a new badge created for the cup holders by the world body FIFA.
Captain Fabio Cannavaro, from Real Madrid, is back in defence after an ankle injury that sidelined him at Euro 2008, while Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni also recovered from a pulled muscle.
Toni, who failed to shine at Euro 2008, is likely to man the attack with Antonio Di Natale, a fast, short striker who notched a brace for Udinese in last weekend's Serie A opener.
Because of the game against Georgia four days later, there may be room for substitutions as Lippi also has Alessandro Del Piero, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alberto Gilardino available up-front.
World champion Marco Materazzi is missing in defence, but Lippi can count on valid substitutes as centre back, while Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Grosso should play on the flanks.
Andrea Pirlo is to act as midfield play maker, with Mauro Camoranesi playing closer to the strikers. (dpa)