By 90Min
November 06, 2018

Summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri has been omitted from the Liverpool squad to face Red Star in Serbia on Tuesday night, following concerns for the player's safety.

Manager Jurgen Klopp protested that his side must "focus on football" and insisted that politics had no influence over his decision.

Shaqiri would likely receive a bitter welcome to the Serbian capital following his provocative celebrations at the World Cup. After scoring a 90th minute winner against Serbia in Russia, the Swiss attacker who has Albanian heritage, clasped his hands together to mimic the shape of a double-headed eagle - Albania's national symbol.

Catherine Ivill - AMA/GettyImages

This was highly provocative to Serbian fans who have had historically flammable relations with Albania.

According to the Daily Mail, Klopp insisted that this was not the reason for the Swiss player's absence, and instead wanted the team and media to focus on the football.

"We come here wanting to play football. If he came here and was involved, all the questions would be about him," he said.


"We were absolutely not aware of any security issues or whatever, the only thing I can say was that it was common sense to just make the decision, not to force anything."

Shaqiri started the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, as Liverpool came out 4-0 winners, and after scoring recently in their 4-1 win over Cardiff, the winger would have been hoping to feature in the crucial Champions League tie.

Despite insisting the decision was not political, the potential for animosity from Serbian fans towards his player was clearly on the German's mind.

"Usually you don't think about things like that before a game but we had to think about it," Klopp added. "We need to cool the situation down. We cannot clarify that situation (between Serbia and Albania) and it's not our job."

The manager was very well received by the Serbian press who avoided probing the German about Shaqiri's absence. Ultimately, it was clear that Klopp wanted to focus on the football aspect of his side's trip to Serbia as he insisted his players will be prepared for the malicious atmosphere.


"We are not here for politics , we are here to play football," he explained. "The only way I know to cool the atmosphere down is to play really good football.


"It will be a fantastic atmosphere. The way you describe it, you always make it sound like something we have to be afraid of.

Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

"But for me one reason I enjoy about being a manager of such a big club is that we often have big atmospheres and I like that."

A Liverpool win on Tuesday would consolidate their lead at the top of a star-studded Group C. Elsewhere in the group, Napoli clash with qualification-rivals PSG as they vie to knock Liverpool off the top spot.

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