It’s no secret that Liverpool’s midfield has struggled mightily for most of the current season. Injuries, fatigue, and poor form have plagued the players at the center of the park, and many of the side’s problems can be attributed to the midfield woes. One beneficiary of these conditions has been Stefan Bajcetic.
The 18-year-old who was barely on the radar coming into this season has quickly become a regular name on the matchday squad. After making eight substitute appearances between the Premier League, Champions League, and League Cup, the Spaniard was handed his first start for an FA Cup 3rd Round Replay against Wolverhampton on Tuesday. He impressed enough in the match that Jürgen Klopp then rewarded him with his first PL start in yesterday’s scoreless draw with Chelsea.
Bajcetic spoke about how it felt to make his first league start in an interview with the LFC website after the match.
“I found out [on Friday]. Obviously we prepare for the game the day before and I found out, I was a bit shocked,” the midfielder admitted. “I’m so happy to be here and to play and to help the team.”
He was understandably thrilled to hear that the manager had remarked it was impossible to leave him out of the XI after his performance against Wolves.
“I didn’t hear it but it’s always a great feeling to hear the boss say that. I’m just trying to give my best.”
As for the draw with Chelsea, while both teams really needed a win, Bajcetic thought a draw was fair in a match where it was just as important not to lose.
“Yeah, I think it was, to be fair,” the youngster said when asked if the draw was a fair result. “Sometimes you felt like somebody will win. There were good moments, bad moments. At the start of the second half, I think we were amazing, we were pressing, having the ball and having chances – but unluckily we didn’t score and they had moments. But I think it’s a fair result and a great clean sheet for us.
“We are chasing the same thing – top four. It was important to win, but it was very important to not lose.”
In addition to playing against a tough opponent, Bajcetic had the added difficulty of having to play on a yellow card after tripping up Lewis Hall in the 34th minute. A first-half yellow changes the way anyone plays, but playing defensive midfield on a yellow can be especially challenging.
“Obviously you have to be more careful the whole game,” said the midfielder. “Obviously some challenges you know you can’t be as strong because if you’re late it might be another yellow and then you don’t want to let the team down. I was just trying to keep safe in all the tackles.”
Fortunately, he was able to avoid picking up another yellow before making way for Fabinho in the 82nd minute. Now, he and his teammates will have a full week to prepare for an FA Cup meeting with Brighton where the Reds hope to take a bit of revenge for the 3-0 league defeat they suffered at the hands of the Seagulls last weekend.
“We’ll keep training, keep getting back to the way we played before and keep being compact, pressing, everything and hopefully we can get better.”