Liverpool's upcoming fixtures will be stern test of character

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Character. It's a word that Liverpool fans have become accustomed to hearing for quite some time now.

It was a cliche attached to Brendan Rodgers and it seemed that he said the word in every other sentence.

Jurgen Klopp is a manager who indeed fits the definition: passionate, exuberant, witty and sometimes arrogant, the German certainly does things how he wants and could not care less if he's judged for it.


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Klopp has already displayed all of his traits during his three months in charge at Anfield. His press conferences are a joy to watch, likewise witnessing him on the touchline. He's never afraid to show his passion, as Tony Pulis found out when the Reds entertained West Bromwich Albion in December.

Lead By Example

The ex-Borussia Dortmund coach leads by example and now he wants his players to follow in his footsteps. Klopp has called for Liverpool to show more character on the pitch.

"We spoke about this. Fighting for second balls is a physical fight and we have to do this," the 48-year-old said during his pre-match press conference before Liverpool took on Sunderland.

“It’s nothing we can’t do. It’s a problem of understanding. We want to play football and if you get a second ball you have to re-focus and fight for it.

“You need to have three or four players who fight for this and two or three who think ‘we can get this’ and now we can start playing.

“That’s what we didn’t do that often enough but it’s not a physical problem. We have to change our kind of fighting for these balls, which is what we tried to do in the last game, so we knew about it.”

Stern Test

Klopp said this prior to Liverpool's hardest two weeks of their campaign thus far.

They play no less than four away matches in the space of eight days and by the end will have covered 1498 miles in total.

Liverpool's character - or lack of it - has been judged on numerous occasions this term. They were second best in away defeats at Newcastle United and Watford, with the latter bullying the Reds throughout from the first to the final whistle and the 3-0 loss flattered Liverpool.

The Premier League has been unpredictable this season and a top-four place is still well up for grabs. Although Klopp has played his side's chances of gaining a Champions League qualification spot down, he'll know Liverpool have more than an outside squeak of doing so.

First Test Passed

Sunderland are fighting for their lives this season and Sam Allardyce knows how vital each and every point is if they're to avoid relegation. Usually after Christmas, one team who looked doomed for the drop comes out fighting to complete the great escape, with Leicester City the protagonists last term.

Liverpool came through the battle in the north east, winning 1-0 against the Black Cats. It wasn't the most vintage performance, but Klopp's side controlled the match for the most part. They fought hard for victory and Christian Benteke grabbed his second goal in as many matches.

Difficult Clashes against Premier League Opposition

West Ham is always a difficult place to visit. Upton Park is always rocking with Hammers supporters creating a daunting atmosphere for any side visiting. Slaven Bilic has drilled his side to be well set-up and there's no doubt West Ham will make it extremely difficult for Liverpool to travel back to Merseyside with three points.

The east London side also possess attacking quality and put three past the Reds at Anfield. The return of Dimitri Payet - who was on the scoresheet in West Ham's first win away at Liverpool for over 50 years - will give Klopp's rearguard plenty to think about. Likewise ex-Red Andy Carroll, who'll be desperate to get one over his former club.

Arguably Liverpool's toughest game comes on January 5 at Stoke City in the first leg of the semi-final of the League Cup. Mark Hughes has gathered together a side that is no longer just physical, but a team who are becoming increasingly devastating in the attacking front.

Hughes certainly has plenty of ambition at the Britannia and he has driven that mentality into his players. The Potters took a while to gain momentum, but it's been full steam ahead in recent weeks. They've lost just two games in all competitions since October 24 and recently dispatched Manchester United with relative ease as well as putting four past Everton at Goodison Park.

Xherdan Shaqiri is fulfilling all of his potential so many people knew he possessed when at Bayern Munich and ex-Barcelona star Bojan and Marko Arnautovic have also been in top-class form.

Klopp is a natural winner and wants to accumulate every piece of silverware possible. Liverpool have been starved of a trophy since they won the League Cup in 2012 and there'll be members of the Anfield dressing room who want to add a cup to the trophy cabinet.

Many may have to play for the second time in three days and, if the Reds return from the Britannia with a draw at least, it'll be more than a respectable result.

FA Cup Magic

The hardest game, in terms of travel, will be the final away match. As third round FA Cup draws go, Liverpool have been handed a fairly kind one in League Two's Exeter City. However, with the Reds facing a 500-mile round-the-clock journey on Friday evening, there won't be too many managers or players who envy the Merseyside outfit.

Exeter may not have a chance on paper, but they'll be facing a Liverpool team who may be depleted from the shear miles on the road they'd have completed in the past week, as well as three matches and training sessions to go with it.

Exeter know if they try and play football against Liverpool, they'll comprehensively get turned over.

However, if they make the game a real slog, they stand a fighting chance. AFC Wimbledon gave Liverpool a real scare at this stage of the competition last term and Exeter will take heart from that match. The Grecians will make the match ugly and will no doubt examine Liverpool's testament with several hard tackles throughout the match.

Paul Tisdale's men sit 16th in League 2 but they know the magic of the FA Cup and they'll feel this is as good of an opportunity as any for David to slay Goliath.

If the Reds are to get decent results in all of these matches, they will have certainly answered their manager's questions. It'll take some inspiring performances from senior faces and Jordan Henderson has an opportunity to answer all of those who still doubt his position as Liverpool captain.

The Reds' defence also still have a lot to answer for, but their performance against Sunderland was near faultless and three more clean sheets will give them plenty of confidence.

Benteke was on the scoresheet again at the Stadium Of Light and if he begins to start firing on all cylinders, he could make it difficult for Daniel Sturridge to force himself back into the side.

Can Liverpool win all three of their next away fixtures? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below

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Christian Benteke
Steven Gerrard
Premier League
FA Cup
Stoke City

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