Liverpool travel to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday
Last Updated: 05/11/18 5:59pm
Jurgen Klopp says he is focused on Liverpool’s Champions League trip to Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday after Xherdan Shaqiri was omitted from the squad.
The 27-year-old, of Kosovar-Albanian descent, angered Serbian fans with his ‘Albanian Eagle’ celebration and boots featuring the Kosovo flag at the World Cup and a decision has been taken to leave him behind in an attempt to reduce local hostilities.
Speaking ahead of the game, Klopp said he wanted to keep the focus on football for the tricky away tie.
“It’s not sad, it’s the world, politics always has an influence on life. We are here to play football. We didn’t want a story beside a football story and that’s why we decided,” he said.
“The player has accepted it. We come here as one of the biggest clubs in the world. We are here to play football and focus on that. That’s all. Xherdan will play a lot of games for this club in future but not tomorrow.”
Red Star Belgrade coach Vladan Milojevic believes his team are playing for the pride of Serbia as defeat on Tuesday – coupled with a win for Napoli against Paris Saint-Germain – would eliminate them from the competition.
“For the club, Belgrade, Serbia and the whole region tomorrow is an important occasion, and we are looking forward to a spectacle. We will try to make the best of the game,” Milojevic told a press conference.
“Liverpool are a favourite, no matter what. They are one of the main contenders to win the Champions League; the team is made to attack for the title. We need to be concentrated all the time, because every pause and the smallest little thing is immediately punished.”
Dejan Lovren (muscle) and Naby Keita (hamstring) return to the squad but fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson has remained on Merseyside for extra training sessions as he finalises his recovery from a hamstring problem.
Forward El Fardou Ben Nabouhane scored six goals in the qualifying matches, and has 10 Super Liga goals this season. Former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin, who missed the game at Anfield through injury, is back in the squad
This will be Liverpool’s first away game against Red Star in European competition since October 1973, when they lost 2-1 in the first leg of a Last 16 tie in the European Cup/Champions League.
Red Star are winless in their last five games in European competition (D3 L2), losing the last two in a row while conceding a combined 10 goals (1-6 v Paris Saint-Germain and 0-4 v Liverpool).
Liverpool have only lost one of their last 11 group stage games in the Champions League (W5 D5), scoring 33 goals in total during this run (an average of 3 per game).
Red Star have suffered just one defeat in their last 14 home games in European competition (W7 D6), with their previous home game in the current Champions League campaign finishing 0-0 (v Napoli).
Liverpool have scored 48 goals in the Champions League since the start of last season (16 games), the most of any team in the competition.
Red Star have conceded just five goals in their last 14 home games in European competition, keeping nine clean sheets in this run.
Sadio Mane has scored 11 goals in his last 12 appearances for Liverpool in the Champions League, with the most recent of those coming against Red Star in a 4-0 win.