Champions League will aid Liverpool's Premier League title bid, not hinder it - Lineker

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It has been suggested that the Reds could do without the distraction of European competition, but an ex-England international refuses to buy into that

Gary Lineker believes a Champions League victory against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night could light the burners on Liverpool's bid to win their first English league title since 1990.

Jurgen Klopp's side head into a crucial week in their campaign sat level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, with draws against Leicester and West Ham halting their march after the reigning champions slipped to a shock defeat against Newcastle in January.

A 3-0 home win against Bournemouth in their last Premier League game got Liverpool back on track and Lineker believes the first leg of their clash against German champions Bayern Munich is now vital in their efforts to build momentum once again.

With a crunch Premier League meeting with Manchester United at Old Trafford on the horizon, Lineker has dismissed the notion that Klopp's side should focus on domestic glory rather than targeting a European triumph.

"The idea that Liverpool's hopes of winning the Premier League title race will be helped if they are not distracted by Champions League matches is nonsense," BT Sport presenter Lineker told Goal

"I'm a big believer that confidence is a huge factor in any sport and the best way for a footballer to feel confident is by winning big games. So defeat against Bayern Munich would not help Liverpool at all and, in fact, I think it would have the opposite effect. It would be another big setback after a couple of minor slip-ups in the last month, it would add more doubts and that's what you don't want. 

"If they go out and bash Bayern Munich in the manner they did to other teams in the Champions League last season, confidence starts to come back and what has essentially been a small blip for Liverpool with two Premier League draws, it will restore confidence and reinvigorate them.

"Everyone gets a bit carried away at this stage of a season when one of the top teams loses some momentum, but it's very rare that you will steamroller through a season and win everything in sight without a slip-up or two along the way.

"They have had a few injuries that have undermined them to an extent and this is a little test for them, but imagine they go out and blow Bayern Munich away in the first leg of the Champions League tie at Anfield, in a manner they did with Roma last season. 

"A win like that would reignite Liverpool and that's why I think it's crazy to suggest they should focus on the Premier League and would be better off out of the Champions League."

Gary Lineker BT Sport

Lineker believes Klopp's side are being forced to deal with different levels of expectation when compared to their rivals, with some of that coming from within their own supporter base.

"The big issue in play here is the pressure Liverpool are under compared to Manchester City, but that is self-inflicted in many ways," he added.

"We keep hearing they haven't won the title in 29 years and their fans are clearly desperate to end that run, but the manager and the players have to block all that out and focus on the job in hand.

"I had a conversation with Alan Shearer a few weeks back on pressure in a title race and he quickly reminded me that I never knew what it felt like to deal with pressure in a title race as I never won one! 

"After that, we spoke about how Liverpool's players will be feeling and we both agreed that they have to block out the talk of how historic it could be for them to win the Premier League and focus on what they need to do.

"In my experience, players don't tend to think about hype or what has been said in the media, they just go out and play. That is certainly the way I was, but there have been signs of edginess and nervousness from the crowd can sometimes be put onto the players. 

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"The tension was there to see when Harry Maguire scored an equaliser for Leicester a couple of weeks back and the Liverpool players could feel it subconsciously on the pitch. They want to win the Premier League so badly and that might just affect the players.

"I still feel Liverpool are in a great position to have a wonderful end to this season and they should enjoy the Champions League matches against Bayern. It will be a break from the relentless title talk and will give them a chance to focus on something else and have a break."

BT Sport brings you the moments that matter this season, with exclusively live coverage of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Watch live on TV and via the award winning BT Sport App. For more info visit  bt.com/sport .

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