Klopp omits Shaqiri to ‘cool situation down’ in Belgrade

Liverpool boss wants his side to silence the hostile crowd

Jurgen Klopp: decided not to include  Xherdan Shaqiri in the Liverpool squad for the visit to  Red Star in Belgrade. Photograph: Getty

Jurgen Klopp: decided not to include Xherdan Shaqiri in the Liverpool squad for the visit to Red Star in Belgrade. Photograph: Getty

 

Jürgen Klopp has denied omitting Xherdan Shaqiri from Liverpool’s Champions League trip to Red Star Belgrade over security concerns and insisted it made sense “to cool the situation down” at the hostile Rajko Mitic Stadium.

Kosovo-born Shaqiri was left behind when the Liverpool squad flew to Serbia on Monday with his manager seeking to avoid controversy around the tie.

Klopp admitted politics influenced his decision; the Switzerland international incensed Serbia after his 90th-minute winner against them at the World Cup. Shaqiri was fined 10,000 Swiss francs by Fifa for celebrating by forming a double-headed eagle with his hands “as represented on the flag of Albania, who fought against Serbia in the Kosovo war” and sparked a complaint from the Serbia FA for sporting a Kosovo flag on his boots.

Klopp’s decision has been welcomed by Serbian media and Red Star officials who believe it has defused a potentially volatile situation and the threat of Uefa sanctions.

Red Star’s sporting director, Zvezdan Terzic, cautioned against Shaqiri playing when the draw was made, but Liverpool’s manager insists there was nothing sinister behind his selection.

“I’m absolutely not aware of any security issues,” Klopp said.

“The only thing I can say about it was that it was common sense. It was common sense to make the decision and not to force anything. We come here wanting to play football. We have to concentrate on football. We have to focus on football. That’s what we want to do and that is why I made that decision.”

Shaqiri said after Liverpool’s 4-0 defeat of Red Star at Anfield last month that he wanted to play in the return game and could “handle it, no problem”.

His reaction when told that would not be the case, Klopp said, was: “’Okay, boss’. That was the decision and with the decision the discussion ended at that moment.”

The Liverpool manager was taken aback by the focus on Shaqiri’s omission, something he thought would be avoided once his squad was announced.

“My job and your job as well is not to do questions which provoke a kind of answer,” said Klopp, who asked the Serbian interpreter to ensure this answer about the political nature of his decision was translated 100 per cent accurately.

“We need to cool the situation down. We are in Serbia, we respect that 100 per cent. That’s how the world is. Politics always has influence on life, on the life I live at least, and that’s how it is.

“But we are not here for that, we are here to play football. We tried to make sure we can be focused on football. I expected it differently but most of the English-speaking journalists were asking about it, to be honest.

Football story

“It could have been a story but we didn’t want to have a story besides a football story. That’s why we decided what we decided.”

Klopp admits a priority for Liverpool in Belgrade “irrespective of the Shaqiri situation” will be to silence a stadium known as the “Marakana” and renowned for its intimidating atmosphere.

Liverpool beat Red Star comfortably last month but the Serbian champions have not lost at home for over a year.

Defender Andy Robertson said: “At Anfield we scored at the right times and we’re at 100 per cent. I think they’re a different beast when they’re at home. I think they proved that against Napoli, getting the draw. They’ll be hoping to use that to their advantage and hopefully we’ll quieten the crowd.”

Naby Keïta has travelled having missed Liverpool’s last four games with a hamstring injury. Jordan Henderson remains sidelined with the same problem but is expected to resume full training with the squad later this week.

Klopp views the game against Red Star as an opportunity to take control of a tight group including Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain but knows Tuesday’s opponents will be smarting from their heavy defeat at Anfield.

“It would help massively,” he said.

“If we could win here it would give us a bit of control but only until the next game because everything is open again. Even if Paris loses, they can still get 10 points by winning the two games, and the last one is here. It is really important you focus on the job ahead of you because it is so difficult here, so different.

“ I never played here but what I heard about it since I was growing up is that it is a very tough place, historically a tough place to go. They will try everything.

“It is a very proud nation and a very proud club, losing 4-0 away, no supporters there, it’s all a little bit in their favour with what they can use for motivation. They will shout like they usually shout in two games. – Guardian

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