The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City spilled over into the England camp.
Raheem Sterling was dropped from international duty for Thursday’s match with Montenegro “as a result of a disturbance in a private team area at St. George’s Park (on Monday),” a Football Association statement read. It added that Sterling will remain with the squad.
The City attacker tried to grab Liverpool defender Joe Gomez by the neck in the canteen of the national team base, according to The Daily Mail’s Matt Hughes and Sami Mokbel. The bust-up occurred just one day after the pair were involved in an angry confrontation during the clubs’ Premier League meeting at Anfield.
“We have taken the decision to not consider Raheem for the match against Montenegro on Thursday,” manager Gareth Southgate said. “One of the great challenges and strengths for us is that we’ve been able to separate club rivalries from the national team. Unfortunately, the emotions of yesterday’s game were still raw.
“My feeling is that the right thing for the team is the action we have taken. Now that the decision has been made with the agreement of the entire squad, it’s important that we support the players and focus on Thursday night.”
Sterling and Gomez exchanged shoves near the end of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over City, but the repeat of their unpleasantries apparently surprised the other Liverpool players in the England squad after the duo made peace following the league affair.
Gomez tried to warmly shake hands with Sterling on Monday when the latter responded aggressively, Hughes and Mokbel report. The City star – who controversially left Liverpool for the Etihad Stadium in 2015 – was initially believed to be joking until his anger was clear and other players intervened.
England can confirm its route to Euro 2020 with a draw over Montenegro at Wembley. Sterling has been a star of his country’s qualification campaign, weighing in with eight goals in six games and being a key creative force.
He is still in contention to face Kosovo in Pristina next Sunday.