It’s been more than a year since the Serbian giants lost a home game.
A deep look into the club statistics across all possible competitions would reveal a remarkable piece of information: the Belgrade behemoths last suffered a home defeat at the hands of Arsenal (1-0) on 19th October 2017.
Since that moment, Crvena Zvezda have embarked on an astonishing stretch which currently stands at 23 matches at Stadion Rajko Mitic without a single defeat.
It was in no small part that Crvena Zvezda goalkeeper Milan Borjan stands as the one player responsible for such an amazing feat. The Canadian international has been one of the most notable Crvena Zvezda players this season in the Champions League and Twelve’s numbers are there to support such a claim.
His positioning, reflexes and awareness make him a great asset for Vladan Milojevic’s squad. That’s why the Crvena Zvezda fans were worried to see the experienced custodian omitted from training last week, following his team’s 2-0 win over Proleter in the Serbian Super Liga.
Borjan picked up a knock which put his appearance against the Reds in serious doubt but the club officials assure the supporters the goalkeeper will be fit to feature.
The 31-year-old shot-stopper has amassed 3,559 points during 280 minutes of Champions League Group Stage action for his club this season. He might have been beaten ten times to date – with six of those goals conceded in a single game in Paris – but he nevertheless remains one of the brightest sparks in the Crvena Zvezda squad.
A tight defence has been Crvena Zvezda’s biggest strength this season in Europe – at least as far as the home matches are concerned which Serie A hotshots Napoli felt for themselves. Liverpool will need to show a much sharper edge than the one on display against Arsenal in order to get the much needed three points in Belgrade.
The Reds were at their usual attacking best against the Serbs at Anfield and will need to put in a similarly strong-minded appearance in a hostile environment at the Rajko Mitic Stadium. Crvena Zvezda fans are notorious for their vociferous support towards their beloved club but the following match could’ve been particularly fierce due to one particular Liverpool player – Xherdan Shaqiri.
The Kosovo-born Swiss international plunged a dagger in Serbia’s heart this summer by scoring a 90th-minute winner in a 2-1 Group E win at World Cup and twisted the blade to make things worse with his celebration.
Liverpool’s new fan favourite put his hands up to create a double-headed eagle – a national symbol of Albania and Kosovo – which enraged people in Serbia. Tireless and elusive during the entirety of the match, the Swiss used the final moments of the game to make some enemies back in the country he was born in.
Jurgen Klopp was wise to omit Shaqiri from the squad. The German tactician is well aware that the entire focus of the game should not be steered away from the sports aspect to the political one, which would definitely be the case if the Kosovo-born Swiss was to come to Belgrade.
With a difference in quality standing unequivocally in Liverpool’s favour, the Reds attacking unit should be fine even without Shaqiri. After all, his elusiveness and relentlessness are the embodiment of the Liverbird which Rajko Mitic’s gorging gates and Borjan’s impressive defending will hardly be enough to imprison.