Liverpool are contemplating leaving Xherdan Shaqiri out of their squad to face Red Star Belgrade as a means of swerving political distractions.
Jurgen Klopp could omit the summer signing in order to avoid further backlash from Serbian fans over his Albanian-Kosovan heritage.
Serbia refuses to recognise Kosovo as an independent state, with Shaqiri having been at the centre of controversy with his public support for his birth nation during the World Cup.
The Liverpool star celebrated his goal in the 2-1 win over Serbia in Russia by locking his hands and flapping his fingers in an apparent reference to the two-headed eagle on Albania’s national flag.
He also posted an image of his boots on social media during the tournament, sporting a Swiss flag on one foot and and a Kosovan flag on the other.
Klopp is now strongly considering leaving Shaqiri and Merseyside and will make a final decision on Monday, according to the Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe.
Shaqiri: I deserve more respect
Speaking back in October, Shaqiri dismissed any nerves over travelling to Belgrade for Liverpool’s Champions League group stage clash.
He told the Telegraph: “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. I had this already at the World Cup so I know I can handle this no problem.”
A fiery atmosphere undoubtedly awaits Liverpool regardless of Shaqiri’s involvement, with Red Star fans having been banned from entering the stadium for their recent 4-0 defeat at Anfield.
The club faced several UEFA charges due to their fans invading the pitch and setting off fireworks after qualifying for the Champions League with a 2-2 comeback draw against against RB Salzburg.
Liverpool’s convincing win at home suggested they have more than enough talent to cope without Shaqiri at the Rajko Mitić Stadium.