Liverpool have had Stefan Bajcetic ‘problem’ for weeks and injury news confirms it

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Stefan Bajcetic. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty ImageLiverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Stefan Bajcetic. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Image
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Stefan Bajcetic. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Image
Stefan Bajcetic has suffered a season-ending injury which further exposes Liverpool’s midfield issues.

Amid a season in which the bad news just seems to keep coming, Liverpool have been delivered their latest sucker punch.

After being dumped out of the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid yet again, the Reds have only a top-four finish in the Premier League to play for. Even that is going to be a tall order. For Jurgen Klopp’s side to claw back a six-point deficit and leapfrog both Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, they’ll need plenty to go their way.

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And still licking their wounds after a 6-2 aggregate loss to Madrid, Stefan Bajcetic confirmed that he won’t play again this campaign.

The midfielder was absent for the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu after suffering a stress reaction to the adductor. Klopp admitted that the issue with Bajcetic was ‘absolutely bad’ but couldn’t give a time frame at his pre-match press conference. The Liverpool boss wasn’t exaggerating. The worst possible outcome has been confirmed.

In a lustless campaign, Bajcetic has been a rare beacon of hope. His absence in the meek 1-0 loss to Madrid - along with captain Jordan Henderson - was felt.

James Milner displayed industry and endeavour but aged 37, shouldn’t be starting a game of such magnitude. Luka Modric may be the same age yet there are marked differences between the pair’s respective skill sets.

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Fabinho’s issues of this season continued as he proved cumbersome on and off the ball while Diogo Jota then looked highly uncomfortable in the number-10 position. In truth, it was a midfield that lacked any sort of guile or technicality for the most part. It was a midfield that missed Bajcetic’s prowess to take the ball on the half-turn and show bravery. They’ll now lack those qualities for the remaining two-and-a-half months.

If you scroll through the replies to Liverpool’s social media post about Bajcetic’s setback, the reaction is telling. Of course, there’s always hyperbole to these things. Social media can be a dangerous entity. But the fact that a season-ending injury to an 18-year-old who wasn’t earmarked to play such a prominent role in pre-season feels like a seismic blow is an indictment of the current situation at Anfield.

Bajcetic has taken his chance, there’s no doubt about that. Each one of his 19 appearances have been down to merit and an encouraging future awaits. Yet Liverpool have midfielders who should have already been well ahead in the pecking order and kept Bajcetic in the under-21s.

Naby Keita was signed for a then club-record £52 million in 2017 but was omitted from the past two Premier League match-day squads and remained on the bench against Real. He’s out of contract in June and a departure is increasingly likely.

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a shock cameo at the Santiago Bernabeu having not played a single minute in the previous seven games. He prepares to leave on a free transfer in the summer.

Curtis Jones signed a new five-year deal in November yet has been handed a grand total of 60 minutes of action since then. Aged 22, he no longer falls into the category of being a youngster. Harvey Elliott’s one who’s never hidden when he’s featured but arguably his best position is on the right wing rather than in the middle of the park.

Meanwhile, Arthur Melo’s loan from Juventus has proven an exercise in futility. The Brazilian has not played since returning from a long-term thigh injury and was left out of the Champions League squad for the knockout stage.

Kopites will be praying that Thiago Alcantara can overcome a hip injury during the international break. However, the 31-year-old hasn’t exactly dazzled consistently. His return to fitness doesn’t mean Liverpool’s problems will be put paid to. Not at all.

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Bajcetic’s injury undoubtedly decreases Liverpool’s chances of finishing in the top four. It feels seismic - but it shouldn’t. The growing reliance on Bajcetic over the past few weeks reaffirms the necessity to rebuild the middle of the park this summer.

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