Liverpool: Five Ways Champions League Failure Could Hurt Jurgen Klopp's Club

It is only mid-August, but already Liverpool faces two defining fixtures in itsseason.

Jurgen Klopp's team travels to Rhein-Neckar-Arena in southwestern Germany on Tuesday evening to face Hoffenheim in the Champions League playoffs. The prize: lucrative qualification for Europe's premier club competition.

Failure will mean more soul-searching for Klopp and Liverpool, and the unravelling of last season's progress in the Premier League. Here's how defeat by the Bundesliga team could hurt Liverpool.

Financial implications

While the Premier League television contract still dwarfs money earned from the Champions League, that doesn't make the prize money irrelevant. In reaching the semifinals in 2015-16, Manchester City took in €83.8 million ($98.5 million) according to The Guardian - enough to afford one more elite player, if not his wages too.

Beating Hoffenheim to reach the group stage of the Champions League would earn Liverpool €12.7 million ($14.9 million) plus its share of the market pool - the money UEFA allocates to Champions League participants according to the size of the television markets in each club's country. Qualification from the group stage becomes progressively more lucrative thanks to UEFA's prize money system.

Signing new players

Yes, footballers want to play for money. That's not going to change, ever. But it often seems a little insulting to suggest that is their only motivation. The best players want to play in the best club competition, which remains the Champions League.

Liverpool has endured a difficult summer attempting to recruit players, with several huge, failed bids for RB Leipzig's Naby Keita. Leipzig can hold onto Keita because they are in the Champions League; qualification could allow Liverpool to attract the players Jurgen Klopp wants and needs to improve his squad. Fail against Hoffenheim over the two legs, and Klopp will have to market the Europa League as an attractive destination.

Keeping Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho won't play in the first leg against Hoffenheim as reports and rumors swirl around a transfer to Barcelona. Liverpool seems determined to keep hold of its best and most crucial player but missing out on playing in the Champions League would give Coutinho leverage to put even more pressure on Liverpool to let him leave.

Perception of Klopp

It's too early in the season to say that Klopp is a man under pressure but Liverpool showed some familiar mistakes in its first Premier League fixture of the season against Watford on Saturday, including defensive weaknesses from set pieces. Smooth progress to the group stages would relieve much of the early-season tension around Anfield.

Liverpool held its nerve at the end of last season to qualify for this stage of the Champions League but it lost two major finals in its first season under Klopp and there may remain a perception that it chokes at crucial moments. Failure against Hoffenheim would add weight to that view.

Premier League vs. Bundesliga

Not directly Liverpool's problem, of course. But for a league regularly marketed as the "best in the world," the Premier League has a poor recent record of sending teams to the later stages of the Champions League. Only Leicester made it last season, harming the Premier League's reputation compared to Serie A, the Bundesliga and La Liga.

Hoffenheim, the fourth-best team last season, against England's fourth-best team in Liverpool is a fascinating test of how strong the Premier League really is, versus its self-regard.

Liverpool: Five Ways Champions League Failure Could Hurt Jurgen Klopp's Club | Sports