Emre Can pointed to hard work being the main factor behind him returning to full fitness earlier than expected to play the full 90 minutes in the 3-0 UEFA Europa League semi-final second-leg victory over Villarreal on Thursday.
The German international looked set to miss out on the rest of the season when he injured his ankle in the Europa League quarter-final second-leg against Borussia Dortmund.
Despite running 50 yards when Dejan Lovren rose highest in the penalty area to send Liverpool into the next round with a 4-3 victory on the night, it was bad news for Can as he was initially ruled out for around 4-5 weeks.
Still nobody really expected him to make the starting XI but he did and he was absolutely superb all night long as Liverpool booked their place in the Europa League final later this month.
Can plays huge role after early injury return
Can told journalists he “didn’t have a day off in three weeks” whilst he was sidelined as he “spent seven to eight hours at Melwood” every day in the hope of getting fit for the game.
It was still touch and go as to whether he would get to start the game as he only found out he was playing on the day of the game - “I didn’t know beforehand.”
He said: “The manager spoke with me, and he asked me if I felt fit and I said: Yeah, I’m fit and I can play.”
The decision to play Can from the start was inspired and the German reminded every Liverpool fan what they had been missing during his absence as he commanded the centre of the park.
He provided solid protection in front of the back four and also produced some of his trademark lung-busting runs from midfield, one which began the attack for the first goal of the night. It led to him being a contender for man of the match.
It was a surprise to see him last the full 90 minutes as well but Can pointed to the “45 games” he’d already played this season as to the reason why:
“The injury was not too long. I was out for three weeks, but before that, I played like 45 games or something like that. I’m fit and I have no pain.”
The hard work certainly paid off as Can was part of another special night at Anfield as Liverpool overturned the 1-0 deficit from the first-leg to run out 3-1 winners on aggregate after a 3-0 home victory setting up a clash with Sevilla in the final.
Supporters had a massive impact
Being back on the pitch meant Can was back in front of the Anfield crowd and he praised the impact they had on the team and the game. Can described them as “just incredible” on another “unbelievable night at Anfield.”
“It was unbelievable what they showed. I think with the fans, we were all together.”
With the rotation system Jürgen Klopp has used in recent weeks due to the demanding schedule, Can will be unlikely to feature against Watford in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday.
However he will want to take the momentum from the “deserved” win on Thursday and carry it into the remaining games of the season, especially the final in Switzerland.