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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Xherdan Shaqiri left out of Liverpool squad to travel to Red Star Belgrade

Shaqiri, a Kosovan-Albanian, caused a storm with Switzerland against Serbia at the World Cup in Russia by making an Albanian nationalist eagle symbol

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring their second goal against Serbia in the World Cup. Reuters
Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring their second goal against Serbia in the World Cup. Reuters

Xherdan Shaqiri has not been included in Liverpool's travelling squad for Tuesday's Uefa Champions League match against Red Star Belgrade.

Shaqiri caused a storm along with Switzerland teammate Granit Xhaka when they both celebrated goals against Serbia at the World Cup in Russia by making an Albanian nationalist eagle symbol with their hands.

The pair are both of Kosovan-Albanian descent and the incident, for which they were fined by Fifa, threatened to inflame political tensions. Kosovo is a former Serbian province and Serbia does not recognise its independence.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said on Liverpool's official website on Monday" "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."

Klopp added: "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.

"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."

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In September, Red Star Belgrade pledged to protect Shaqiri from "unwanted situations" from supporters at the Rajko Mitic Stadium though Zvezdan Terzic, the club's general director, doubted the former Stoke City player would make the trip because of his background.

"I think that Shaqiri will be under unbelievable psychological pressure because he will know where he is coming; he knows that the Red Star is a symbol of Serbia and playing the Marakana, I don't know whether he will play.

Shaqiri was born in the former Yugoslav city of Gjilan, now part of Kosovo, where a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian population ended with Nato military intervention in 1999.

Liverpool are top of Group C having won two of their three matches including a 4-0 win over Tuesday's opponents at Anfield last month.

Red Star have lost all three of their matches, scoring one goal and conceding 10.