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Liverpool have contacted Zenit St Petersburg to express their concerns over potential racist abuse.

The Reds travel to Russia on Thursday for a Europa League last 32 tie but will advise their players not to walk off if any incidents occur.

A Zenit St Petersburg fans’ group called for non-white and gay players to be excluded from the team in December.

Managing director Ian Ayre revealed Liverpool have written to Uefa and Zenit “expressing their concerns”.

“It’s been a major concern for us,” said Ayre. “We await some responses in that regard.”

Kevin-Prince Boateng led his AC Milan team off in the 25th minute of a friendly at Italian lower division side Pro Patria in January after being racially abused by fans.

However, Ayre insists Liverpool will brief their players on how to deal with any racist incidents, should they occur.

“The most important thing for our players is that they remain professional throughout this,” he said.

“We certainly won’t tolerate that type of attitude or any of those types of incidents from our team. So the important thing is that we let them know how we expect them to act if there is an incident.

“I’d much rather we take the incident off the pitch and we deal with it. But we’ll be briefing our players on what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

The Russian champions’ largest fans’ group, Landscrona, said in an open letter that black players are “forced down Zenit’s throat” in December.

They added that gay players are “unworthy of our great city”.

Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), told BBC Sport: “I think for any black player, and I say this reluctantly, but particularly players of darker skin, who are easily identified as being of African heritage, they should be very cautious.

“Without wanting to pre-empt problems I certainly think this is one of those games that has the potential for tension, the fact that Liverpool have three or four prominent black players who will be vulnerable playing on the wings, and quite close to the crowd.”

Ayre will be at the game on Thursday and will ensure the Premier League club take a strong stance should anything happen.

“I’ll be there and I’ll ensure that we do whatever we need to do to protect anything that happens to any of our players,” he said.

“We’ll take the right action. The referee would be at the forefront of that if there’s something on the pitch.

“Anything that happens off the pitch, then we’ll work very closely with the authorities.

“I’m certainly hopeful that the right people will take the right action to ensure it’s a game where we don’t have that type of incident.”

Source: BBC Sport

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