International break a welcome respite before glut of football matches in April

Breathe in.

To paraphrase a famous line from Charles Dickens, this week’s international break “is the best of times and the worst of times” with the European leagues and competition heading into the final stretch.

In England, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea fans dream of a trophy-laden end to the season.

The break comes at the “best of times” as it gives them a chance to take a step back before the final assault – all three could play up to nine games in April.

They can regroup, give their tired legs a rest and hope that those injured have ample recovery.

It is also “the worst of times” as they lose some momentum. They then have to hope that none of their players on international duty return injured.

Manchester City is hoping to complete the treble – league title, FA Cup and most glorious of all, the Champions League – a trophy it has never won.

Manchester United is the only English team to win all three in the same season.

Liverpool, meanwhile, won the League Cup by beating Chelsea last month and is in the frame to add the three titles City is chasing. The Reds hopes to become the first English team to win the quadruple.

Chelsea has a slim chance of winning the Premier League title and would likely focus on the FA Cup and Champions League.

It comes as no surprise that the top three teams in the Premier League are still in with a shout of winning more trophies this season.

The only real shock is Crystal Palace, which is in the semifinals of the FA Cup. It plays Chelsea, while Liverpool and Manchester City square off in the other tie.

The Champions League draw was kind to the English teams.

If they win their quarterfinal ties, the semifinals could see Manchester City facing Chelsea in a rematch of last year’s final, and Liverpool facing either Bayern Munich or Villarreal.

That could set up a potential all-English final – the third in the last four seasons.

So, while there are no club matches this weekend, English football fans could use this international break to catch up on some valuable sleep.

Once club football resumes next weekend, there will be a feast of matches, and every one of them, equally important.

As for Manchester City or Liverpool, it could, to turn to Dickens once again, be “the epoch of belief, the epoch of incredulity” if either one sweeps the remaining trophies.

Breathe out.