Liverpool legend Phil Thompson believes the Reds' chances of keeping Philippe Coutinho hinge heavily on their Champions League qualification for the 2017/18 season.

The Merseyside club finished fourth in the league last term, due to which they have to feature in the play-off. The English club are pitted against Hoffenheim and managed a 2-1 victory over the Bundesliga outfit in Germany on 15 August.

Avoiding defeat in the return leg at Anfield assures Liverpool a place in the group stages of Europe's elite club competition. Coutinho has already expressed his desire to leave his current employers as Barcelona remain keen on securing his services.

The Brazil international has handed in a transfer request to force a move to the Catalan club. The Reds are adamant that Coutinho will not be allowed to leave in the summer transfer window. Thompson says the ex-Inter Milan man will have a "very good" excuse to leave Liverpool if Jurgen Klopp's side fail to qualify for the Champions League.

"I think the outcome of the play-off could have a knock-on to Coutinho; if things go pear-shaped then has a pretty good excuse to say, 'Let me go, I want to play in the Champions League', so it is even more important in that respect," Thompson told Sky Sports.

"If we get through to the group stages then I think the owners - because they put everything at Coutinho's disposal before, giving him a five-year deal and the pay increase that he and his agent asked for - have strong enough grounds to stand firm.

"The owners know it's Barcelona but to them it's a contract signed and until they've got a player who can fill his boots then they have no interest in selling, especially after the way the club was embarrassed with the timing of the transfer request."

Liverpool's failure to overcome Hoffenheim could see the Premier League side drop to the Europa League. The Reds could struggle to retain Coutinho if they fail to make it to the group stages of the Champions League and Barcelona will be hoping that the German club can knock Klopp's side out of the competition as that could boost their chances of signing the 25-year-old.

Philippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho is transfer target for Barcelona Getty