SOMETIMES, international breaks are looked upon scornfully because the football clubs in England see them as an intrusion.
But the most recent one was filled with much excitement and despair, depending on where your allegiances lie.
Several of the big name nations duly got through the 2022 World Cup qualifiers and booked their places in Qatar next year. This included England, who signed off with a 10-0 victory over San Marino, highlighted by Harry Kane’s four-goal salvo.
There were some notable developments in the English Premier League as well. Steven Gerrard’s appointment as Aston Villa head coach and Dean Smith taking up the post at Norwich certainly generated a fair amount of discussion. And they will get their new jobs underway today with testing home fixtures against Brighton and Southampton.
Gerrard, who said the Villa job was “a risk, but too big to turn down” in particular will have his tenure closely scrutinised, only because it is widely seen as a stepping stone for him take up the manager’s post at Liverpool, in the long term.
Elsewhere, West Ham, one of the on-form teams in the Premiership and definitely the surprise package of the season so far, face an improving Wolves outfit for what should be an explosive fixture.
David Moyes’ Hammers are riding the crest of the wave right now and only a fortnight ago humbled Liverpool with a deserved win in London. That took them up to third in the standings and they look every bit like they belong there.
Wolves came unstuck at Arsenal the last time out, but are beginning to look like they know what new boss Bruno Lage wants and that means they can only get better.
Chelsea, who lead the Premier League by three points from Manchester City and West Ham, make the trip to Leicester, where they could find more resistance to their bid for the title.
Notwithstanding another surprise result like their home draw with Burnley two weeks ago, they should maintain their cushion at the top of the table.
Leicester, who will be trying to put aside the distraction of the talk of manager Brendan Rodgers going to Manchester United, should give the Blues a run for their money at the King Power Stadium.
Harvey Barnes will do well to put in another shift like he did against Leeds, when he notched the equaliser in the draw at Elland Road.
Champions Man City should be able to beat Everton, who have failed to win any of their last five Premier League matches.
After a promising start at Goodison Park, Rafael Benitez has seen his Toffees slip from the top four into the bottom half of the table. And unless he starts to get things right, his position at the Merseyside club will come under some serious threat soon.