LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 27, 2024: Liverpool's Stefan Bajcetic arrives before the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Stefan Bajcetic return plan now clear as Liverpool learn playoff opponents

Liverpool U21s will face Crystal Palace in the last 16 of the Premier League 2 playoffs, which will give Stefan Bajcetic the chance to take his next step.

Though their campaign ended with back-to-back defeats to Sunderland and Arsenal, Liverpool U21s qualified as a top seed for the knockout stage of Premier League 2.

After 20 league games, the top 16 teams split for playoffs to determine the eventual champions, with those ties determined by league placing.

Liverpool finished eighth, meaning they were drawn against ninth-placed Crystal Palace for a one-legged tie at the AXA Training Centre which will take place on Sunday, May 5.

The winners of that tie will play either Sunderland or Wolves in the quarter-finals, with Arsenal, Man United, Reading or Middlesbrough to come in the semi-finals.

By finishing in the top 12, Liverpool have also qualified for next season’s Premier League International Cup, a tournament in which they faced AS Monaco, Benfica, Feyenoord and Athletic Club this time around.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, April 12, 2024: Liverpool's substitute Stefan Bajcetic (R) is challenged by Manchester United's substitute James Scanlon during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Manchester United FC Under-21's and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Old Trafford. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With potential silverware still up for grabs, by extending their campaign the young Reds could have also laid the path for Bajcetic to complete his recovery.

The Spaniard has made the first-team squad twice since returning to availability, but his only minutes on the pitch have come for the U21s.

Bajcetic clocked 30 minutes against Man United, 45 against Sunderland and then an hour against Arsenal, as he works towards his first full 90 minutes at any level since the Carabao Cup victory over Derby in November 2022.

“It’s brilliant! [It was a] bit of a late call,” U21s coach Barry Lewtas told This Is Anfield after Bajcetic assisted on his return at Man United.

“We do have players like Kaide Gordon and Stefan who have missed quite a bit of time.

“He was desperate to play and buzzing with half an hour. He came on and I thought he was going to blow up after 10, he put that much into it!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 20, 2023: Liverpool's Jarell Quansah (L) and Stefan Bajcetic during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Europa League Group E match between LASK and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Andrew Yeats/Propaganda)

“It was great to have him back, it’s amazing for him.”

Having missed the majority of the season with growing pains, Bajcetic has undergone an intensive rehabilitation programme, which Jurgen Klopp has described as “his pre-season.”

The long-term aim will be to reintegrate the 19-year-old as a first-team player next season, though he will now do so under a new manager.

Arne Slot will likely take a similar view to Bajcetic as Klopp did, with the versatile teenager one of the most talented youngsters to come through at Liverpool in many years.