Jurgen Klopp leaves Xherdan Shaqiri out of Serbia trip over fears for his safety

The Liverpool manager admitted that politics play a part in football and club officials feared the player could be attacked by Red Star Belgrade’s notorious fans in the Serbian capital.

Klopp is still expecting an intimidating atmosphere in the Serbian capital but the situation will be a hell of a lot easier without Shaqiri, who has started to impress after his summer move from Stoke.

Shaqiri, 27, was born in the former Yugosloavian city of Gjilan which is now part of Kosovo, whose independence has not been recognised by Serbia.

The midfielder found himself in hot water during the World Cup by wearing boots with the Kosovo flag on one boot and the Swiss one on the other.

He was born to Kosovan-Albanian parents and celebrated Switzerland’s last-minute winner against Serbia at the tournament in Russia with an ‘eagle’ gesture.

It celebrates the Albanian flag and he was fined, along with Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner, for unsporting behaviour.

After the 4-0 win over Red Star which ensured Liverpool currently top their group, Shaqiri – who was jeered by visiting fans during the game – claimed he had “no concerns” about playing in Belgrade.

But Klopp said: “We have to cool the situation down. We are in Serbia and we respect them 100 per cent.

"Politics always has an influence on life, certainly on the planet I live. We are not here for that – we are here to play football. We have to be focused on football.

“It could have been a story and we did not want a story beside football so that is what we decided.”

In a statement issued by Liverpool earlier in the day, Klopp said: “It’s a situation where we will go to the fantastic city of Belgrade as a football team to play football.

“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.”

Victory will certainly put Liverpool in a strong position regarding qualifying but equally, the Serbs are strong at home – and drew 0-0 with Napoli here on matchday one.

Regarding the other squad news, Klopp added: “We will take pretty much everyone. Clyney (Nathaniel Clyne)  is ill and will not be involved, but Dejan (Lovren) and Naby (Keita) are back in the travelling squad.

“Hendo (Jordan Henderson) was close, but not close enough.

"He needs two proper sessions for his fitness, which he will get at Melwood, with Shaqiri and hopefully Clyney if he is back from illness. They both should be fine for the weekend.”

Keita has been struggling with a hamstring injury but could be a sub while Adam Lallana is hoping to start.

Defender Andy Robertson said: “I am expecting another special atmosphere. We have seen videos of how the fans act here and it is special stadium but we have experience and we have to focus on the game.

“We have a chance for a big three points. If we win we will be top of the group going into the last two games.”

Liverpool (likely) 4-4-3: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Lallana, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Red Star (likely) 4-2-3-1:  Borjan, Stojkovic, Babic, Degenek, Gobeljic, Krsticic, Jovicic, Srnic, Ebecilio, Ben Nabouhane, Boakye.


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