By Rory O’Callaghan
Last Updated: 05/11/18 9:08am
Liverpool have excluded Xherdan Shaqiri from their Champions League squad travelling to face Red Star in Belgrade.
Liverpool have taken the decision due to the potential for the presence of Shaqiri, who is of Kosovan-Albanian heritage, to inflame the Serbian club’s supporters.
Kosovo is a former Serbian province and Serbia does not recognise its independence.
Shaqiri and Switzerland team-mate Granit Xhaka caused controversy at the World Cup in Russia after making an Albanian nationalist eagle symbol with their hands after scoring against Serbia.
The pair, who are both of Kosovan-Albanian heritage, received a formal warning from FIFA and were fined 10,000 Swiss francs (£7,633) for unsporting behaviour.
Shaqiri had previously stated he had no concerns over travelling to Serbia but Jurgen Klopp has opted to leave the 27-year-old out of his squad for the match on Tuesday.
“It’s a situation where we will go to the fantastic city of Belgrade as a football team to play football,” said Klopp, in a statement on Liverpool’s website.
“We have heard and read the speculation and talk about what kind of reception Shaq would receive and although we have no idea what would happen, we want to go there and be focused 100 per cent on football and not have to think about anything else, that’s all.
“We are Liverpool FC, a big club, a football team but we don’t have any message further than that. We have no political message, absolutely not. We want the focus to be on a great game of football, free from anything else.
“We are keen to be respectful and keen to avoid any distractions that would take focus away from a 90-minute-plus contest that is important for football and only football.
“So for that reason, Shaq is not involved and he accepts and understands this. Shaq is our player, we love him, and he will play for us a lot of times, but not on Tuesday.”
More to follow…