Published: Tue, November 06, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Liverpool receive timely boost ahead of Red Star Belgrade encounter

Liverpool receive timely boost ahead of Red Star Belgrade encounter

The Liverpool winger is proud of his Kosovan and Albanian roots and has not been afraid to show it, leading to an awkward situation for his club once they were drawn against Red Star of Serbia in Group C of the Champions League. We have to focus on football.

But this home fixture for the 1991 European Cup champions sees Jurgen Klopp faced with making a decision on a potential flash-point in Xherdan Shaqiri.

Swiss footballer Shaqiri, 27, is an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, where a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian population resulted in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military intervention in 1999.

Red Star's sporting director, Zvezdan Terzic, cautioned against Shaqiri playing when the draw was earlier this year and the 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.

"It was a hard situation if you want, usually you don't think about things like that before a game but we had to think about it". Liverpool are favourites, we know that we are in a tough group, but we are going to give our best.

"We are keen to be respectful and keen to avoid any distractions".

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"It's not sad, it's the world, politics always has an influence on life. This is a proud football club and they want to strike back".

Klopp was clearly aware of the sensitivity of the issue, fielding a number of questions on the issue and, at one point, stressing to the translator to relay his words in their entirety rather than provide a condensed version as he was keen to get his message across without misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Red Star have one point after three matches in a pool that also includes Paris St Germain and Napoli.

Klopp admits he did not want anything to inflame the already combustible atmosphere at a ground known locally as the Marakana but accepts by leaving out the player he intensified the debate, at least in the pre-match build-up.

"Fabinho came and had to wait his turn and he looks fantastic and what you get when you're a team like Liverpool now is people say, 'I know this manager will play me at some stage and if I do play he will probably keep me in the team'". To be ready for a fight, ready for a big game.

"For the club, Belgrade, Serbia and the whole region tomorrow is an important occasion, and we are looking forward to a spectacle". We are used to hard atmospheres, difficult situations.

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