18-year-old Liverpool midfielder Stefan Bajcetic looks set to feature for the Reds against Derby on Wednesday, with assistant manager Pep Lijnders calling him “a joy to watch.”
Having been part of the club’s pre-season tour of Asia, Bajcetic has been heavily involved with the first team so far this term, largely due to the injury problems Jurgen Klopp‘s side have faced in midfield.
Having played a lot of his youth football at centre-back, Bajcetic is now viewed as a promising holding midfielder, with Lijnders hailing him as a “present” from the academy.
“Stefan is a joy to watch. He has all the characteristics we search for as a midfield player,” Liverpool’s assistant boss said in his pre-Derby press conference.
“He played in the past as a centre-half, so he’s really good in the challenges, which we need. One of our bigger problems this season is stopping counter-attacks, so we can stay in the opposition half. He is the type of player who has this attribute.
“It’s really nice to see. He’s young, hungry, shows every day in training that he’s really ready. It’s up to us to lead well with him, give him the right moments and all these things.
“I cannot say if he starts or not, but hopefully we will see him tomorrow. Honestly, sometimes the academy gives you presents, and he’s one of them.”
Lijnders, who himself rose to prominence having initially joined the club as an academy coach, clearly has a lot of faith in Bajcetic and the other young players at Liverpool.
He went on to stress the importance of handing opportunities to the Reds’ best young players, before hinting that Scousers will be involved against Derby on Wednesday.
“If you work for this club, you have to trust young players, because the generations before made this club,” he continued.
“We have to create again this kind of environment where young talent can step up and be decisive.
“Of course, we want to see them. It would be idiotic not to do that, because the talent is huge. Otherwise, all the time, all the energy, all the money we invest, also our owners, our staff, first-team staff, academy staff, it doesn’t make sense to have 200 boys there running around and not using them.
“They never let us down and they will never let us down, and they will also pay back. That’s their character. And we’re going to see Scousers hopefully! Can you imagine a Scouser scoring in front of the Kop again?