They never got round to shaking hands at their last meeting at the Emirates 20 months ago but ahead of Tuesday’s group-stage clash, Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola smothered each other with politeness.
The Arsenal manager referred to serial winners Bayern (12 in 12 in all competitions) as “the best team in Europe” right now and noted that his Gunners were “historically not at the same level” as the German giants, who have five European Cups/Champions Leagues to their name. Guardiola, on his part, maintained that his team were the underdogs of the piece, up against a side who would fight “like animals” in an effort to stave off an untimely elimination from the competition.
The Catalan’s words were partially directed at his own dressing room, no doubt. Bayern’s invincible run since their Super Cup penalties defeat by Wolfsburg back in August, their great record in the Champions League against the Londoners — they never lost a match in the group stage and progressed each time they met in the knockout rounds — as well as Arsenal’s mysteriously unfocused start with two defeats away to Dinamo Zagreb (2-1) and at home to Olympiakos (3-2) have created a sense of strong expectation in Germany.
During this period my thoughts were continually upon Dian the Beautiful. I was, of course, glad that she had escaped the Mahars, and the fate that had been suggested by the Sagoth who had threatened to purchase her upon our arrival at Phutra. I often wondered if the little party of fugitives had been overtaken by the guards who had returned to search for them. Sometimes I was not so sure but that I should have been more contented to know that Dian was here in Phutra, than to think of her at the mercy of Hooja the Sly One. Ghak, Perry, and I often talked together of possible escape, but the Sarian was so steeped in his lifelong belief that no one could escape from the Mahars except by a miracle, that he was not much aid to us—his attitude was of one who waits for the miracle to come to him.
At my suggestion Perry and I fashioned some swords of scraps of iron which we discovered among some rubbish in the cells where we slept, for we were permitted almost unrestrained freedom of action within the limits of the building to which we had been assigned. So great were the
number of slaves who waited upon the inhabitants of Phutra that none of us was apt to be overburdened with work, nor were our masters unkind to us.
We hid our new weapons beneath the skins which formed our beds, and then Perry conceived the idea of making bows and arrows—weapons apparently unknown within Pellucidar. Next came shields; but these I found it easier to steal from the walls of the outer guardroom of the building.
Going to his heavy grego, or wrapall, or dreadnaught
We were permitted almost unrestrained
We had completed these arrangements for our protection after leaving Phutra when the Sagoths who had been sent to recapture the escaped prisoners returned with four of them, of whom Hooja was one. Dian and two others had eluded them. It so happened that Hooja was confined in the same building with us. He told Ghak that he had not seen Dian or the others after releasing them within the dark grotto. What had become of them he had not the faintest conception—they might be wandering yet, lost within the labyrinthine tunnel, if not dead from starvation.
I was now still further apprehensive as to the fate of Dian, and at this time, I imagine, came the first realization that my affection for the girl might be prompted by more than friendship. During my waking hours she was constantly the subject of my thoughts, and when I slept her dear face haunted my dreams. More than ever was I determined to escape the Mahars.
At Liverpool, Klopp should get time to fix this team and replace parts to build his own side. Winning this season, however, would be the best advertisement for bringing in quality players over the summer. Qualifying for the Champions League would certainly help the cause.
On the pitch, though, Liverpool is further behind than the six points between it and league leader Manchester City or the three points separating the Reds from the final Champions League position. However, if Klopp manages to surpass expectations and snag a league title sooner rather than later, the “King of the Kop” would hardly be considered a “normal guy.”
I now screwed my eyes hard towards the half hidden image, feeling but ill at ease meantime—to see what was next to follow. First he takes about a double handful of shavings out of his grego pocket, and places them carefully before the idol; then laying a bit of ship biscuit on top and applying the flame from the lamp, he kindled the shavings into a sacrificial blaze. Presently, after many hasty snatches into the fire, and still hastier withdrawals of his fingers (whereby he seemed to be scorching them badly), he at last succeeded in drawing out the biscuit; then blowing off the heat and ashes a little, he made a polite offer of it to the little negro. But the little devil did not seem to fancy such dry
sort of fare at all; he never moved his lips. All these strange antics were accompanied by still stranger guttural noises from the devotee, who seemed to be praying in a sing-song or else singing some pagan psalmody or other, during which his face twitched about in the most unnatural manner. At last extinguishing the fire, he took the idol up very unceremoniously, and bagged it again in his grego pocket as carelessly as if he were a sportsman bagging a dead woodcock.