Why Xherdan Shaqiri Won't Be Playing Against Red Star Belgrade
In what will come as a surprise to many, Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri will be missing out when The Reds travel to Serbia to play Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Champions League Group C clash on Tuesday evening.
The 27-year-old Switzerland international has settled into Jürgen Klopp's side since his £13.5 million move from relegated Stoke City in the summer, so his omission from Liverpool's squad will be a shock.
Xherdan Shaqiri's last 4 games for Liverpool- LFC Stats (@LFCData) October 27, 2018
:six: Chances Created
:one: Goal pic.twitter.com/Tv7d6eHXvN
However, it has been revealed that the winger will be staying at home due to Liverpool wanting to "avoid any distractions."
Confirmed: Xherdan Shaqiri left out of #LFC squad for trip to Belgrade.- James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) November 5, 2018
In 1999, Serbia allowed for Nato intervention to crack down on the Albanian population within the country, leading to unrest that still exists today due to Kosovo not being recognised as an independent state.
Shaqiri, who was born to Kosovar Albanian parents, has not been afraid to express his heritage in the past.
During the World Cup in Russia, Shaqiri a well as his national teammate Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner both of Arsenal all received fines for their 'double headed eagle gesture' against Serbia.
As a result, Liverpool manager Klopp has left Shaqiri at home and speaking to the club's official website explained that,
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"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."
After Xherdan Shaqiri scored for Switzerland against Serbia, he celebrated by making a double-headed eagle gesture, which symbolizes the Albanian flag. He was fined 10,000 Swiss francs (R143125,13) by FIFA for the celebration, which happened during a World Cup group-stage match. pic.twitter.com/LWW7SUQBgQ- PLAYBET (@PLAYBET) November 5, 2018
Despite the club taking this measure, Shaqiri himself insisted last month that he isn't fazed by backlash he'd face.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the former Bayern Munich man explained:
"I just saw a few articles where one player said something. I don't really care what people are saying. I just go there to play a football game. It is not about politics, it is about football. I worry about nothing and go to play."
Liverpool will also be without club captain Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Clyne due to a hamstring issue and illness respectively, but Naby Keita and Dejan Lovren could feature.
With 'Shaq' leaving a gaping hole to be filled in Liverpool's attacking options, who would you choose to fill his place? Sound off in the comments.
Words by Danny Marland