Roma's quest for their 10th Coppa Italia title begins on Tuesday against a familiar foe, but how many familiar faces will grace the pitch?
We've talked a lot this season about the perpetual anxiety and ceaseless drama that is Roma. But A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (yes that was a Broadway reference); Roma is in the midst of a four game winning streak and has ripped off five victories in their last six matches.
So there is little reason for exasperation, or is there?
Any lingering concern rest simply in the manner in which the club approaches this season's Coppa Italia.
Will they go full force with the normal cast of characters or will they experiment with new players and tactics?
The question has mettle because Roma are chasing their 10th Coppa title, not to mention the Silver Star that comes along with it. Having faltered in their last two attempts at their 10th coccarda, to Inter and Juve, respectively, Roma will look to stay one ahead of The Old Lady in the title count, who also have nine titles.
But first there's the small matter of Tuesday's match against Atalanta, from whom they taken four of the last six matches, including a 2-0 blanking this past October. What we wrote here pretty much remains true, when Roma plays Atalanta, German Denis must be reckoned with. True to form, Denis is leading the Atalanta attack with 6 goals.
Despite dropping three of their last six matches, Atalanta sits 9th on the Serie A table and has already dispatched Padova and Cesena in this competition, though Denis did not score in either of those.
But you're not really here to read about Atalanta, right?
The question on the mind of every Roma fan is who exactly will take the field in this match?
While you can debate the relative merits of Roma's recent opponents, there is little equivocation that the team is riding high, at long last looking like a cohesive unit, rather than an amalgam of guys running towards the goal mouth. A unified Roma, as we saw on Saturday, is a sight to behold. So if Zeman continues to build that chemistry, you can hardly blame him, but with matches against Milan, Napoli and Inter looming, not to mention a trans-Atlantic winter "break", fatigue starts to become an issue.
Ten titles and silver stars notwithstanding, domestic cups across the continent seem to be lacking the cache they once had, so what better place to trot out Dodo, Alessio Romagnoli, Jonatan Lucca, Junior Tallo or Tomas Svedkauskas? They could even give some extended minutes to Marquinho, Taddei or showcase Nicolas Burdisso for his inevitable sale. But Atalanta is currently a top 10 club, so you can't assume a victory.
It's an odd paradigm in many ways, usually the early stages of domestic cups are showcases for young, developing players, but in Roma's case, the kids are crucial components in an already successful machine.
Ultimately, and obviously, I might add, this is Zeman's call. Does he value the prestige and wardrobe accoutrements that come with being the first ten-time winner of the Coppa Italia? Or will he channel his inner Ranieri and give into the urge to tinker?
Whatever the case may be, after the effervescent display we saw on Saturday, could you really wait another week to watch this club!?
Update: Zeman's all in