Rome: Italy`s Fed Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti believes the title-holders will be favourites when they line up against the USA in the final in San Diego next month.
Italy won the title for the second time in four years in Reggio Calabria last year, whitewashing the USA 5-0 in the final.
And with the Williams sisters Serena and Venus set to miss the November 6-7 event as they did last year, Barazzutti is sure his team will be fancied to retain their crown.
"We`ll start as favourites but we can`t get distracted, away matches are always hazardous and our opponents have recently shown they can beat higher-ranked players," he said.
Barazzutti has picked the same team as last year, with French Open champion Francesca Schiavone joined by Flavia Pennetta and doubles pairing Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani.
USA captain Marie Joe Fernandez has selected Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek Sands, Liezel Huber and debutant Coco Vandeweghe.
That was a surprise to Barazzutti who was expecting Vania King to be part of the team, as she was last year.
"I expected Vania King to be called up, she`s shown this year that she`s a top doubles player," he added.
"Obviously Fernandez will go for Huber-Mattek in the doubles and she`s chosen to bring another singles player in the young Vandeweghe.
"She`s an interesting young player who`s shown herself on the WTA circuit this year.
"I think it`s the right thing to give her this experience, she could be the future of the American team."
The 19-year-old Vandeweghe is ranked 115 in the world, around 100 places lower than Schiavone and Pennetta, her two likely opponents in San Diego if she plays.