Xherdan Shaqiri has been excluded from Liverpool’s Champions League squad to face Red Star Belgrade as Klopp looks to protect his player from unneeded hostile attention.
The Swiss international has Albanian roots that make any matchday involvement against Serbia or a Serbian club potentially hostile and as we saw during the World Cup, the feisty winger is prone to expressing his feelings in a controversial manner.
His double eagle celebration after sinking the Serbs in the World Cup drew a lot of media attention and a fine from FIFA. Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka was also sanctioned by the football governing body and Klopp has taken steps to avoid such backlash occurring at club level.
The German manager has excluded Shaqiri from the matchday squad to face Red Star in Serbia tomorrow.
“It’s a situation where we will go to the fantastic city of Belgrade as a football team to play football,” Klopp told the club’s official 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, 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.
“I have heard so many wonderful things about the city of Belgrade, and the country of Serbia as a whole, from friends and colleagues who’ve visited before, so now I’m really looking forward to taking Liverpool there for a great game of Champions League football.”
The full Liverpool squad to face the Serbian SuperLiga side: Fabinho, Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Lovren, Milner, Keita, Firmino, Mane, Salah, Gomez, Alisson, Sturridge, Moreno, Lallana, Mignolet, Robertson, Origi, Solanke, Matip, Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold.