Jurgen Klopp: Xherdan Shaqiri Will Not Play vs. Red Star over Reception Concerns

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2018

Liverpool's Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Cardiff City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on October 27, 2018. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp has explained that Xherdan Shaqiri will not make the trip with Liverpool to face Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League amid concerns he will receive a hostile reception.

Shaqiri was fined by FIFA for making an Albanian "double-eagle" gesture while celebrating Switzerland's 2-1 win over Serbia at the 2018 World Cup, and Klopp wants the focus in Tuesday's match to be on football.

He told Liverpool'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 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."

Shaqiri, along with Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner, avoided two-match bans over the incident but were hit with a financial penalty for breaching FIFA's rules on displaying political symbols.

Xhaka and Shaqiri both have Albanian and Kosovan heritage. Serbia have not recognised Kosovo's independence since it was declared in 2008 and launched a crackdown on Albanian separatists that required NATO's intervention in 1999. 

Football writer Leanne Prescott believes the winger will be missed but understands why Liverpool have taken such a decision:

Leanne Prescott @_lfcleanne

Can understand the thinking behind leaving Shaqiri out given the hostility he’d receive in Belgrade. Disappointing from a fan perspective given the creativity he brought in the home fixture, but player safety is paramount & Klopp won’t want any distractions.

Football writer Dinesh Hardayal has been impressed with the 27-year-old:

Dinesh Kumar @DHardayal

Shaqiri is looking like a class signing, was excellent in pre season and has continued that form. Klopp keeping him on the sidelines probably to maintain his hunger as well as giving him time to develop into this new role

Shaqiri has provided three assists for Liverpool since his arrival in the summer, including one against Red Star in their visit to Anfield, and he has also found the net once.

He has not only looked to create chances for his team-mates, but he has also helped bridge the gap between the Reds' midfield and forwards and shown that he isn't simply a back-up if the likes of Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah need a rest.

That said, a team of Liverpool's quality shouldn't need him to overcome Red Star even away from home. The Serbian side did hold Napoli to a draw at the Rajko Mitic Stadium, but if the Reds play to the standard they're capable of, then they should be bringing three points back with them.