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Bayern charged over fake money protest

Bayern Munich
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No quarter given

After the Round of 16 in the Champions League, fantasy managers could be forgiven for loading up on Bayern Munich stars.

Following their record 12-1 aggregate win over the hapless Sporting Lisbon, players for the Bundesliga club are dominating the top of the scoring charts. Franck Ribery, who only appeared in the first leg in Portugal, is the Most Valuable Player with 17 points after notching two goals and a key contribution.

Bayern have three players from the top nine midfielders with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mark Van Bommel in the list. They may not have the top striker but they do have another three players this time in the top six. Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni and Lukas Podolski all make an appearance.

Anyone thinking of stocking up on Bayern players for the quarter-finals, which begin next week, have one important thing to consider: Barcelona. The Spanish giants, believed by many to be the only hope to stop another Premier League success in Europe's top competition, lie in wait and it creates a question mark over the worth of players such as Ribery and Klose running deeper into the competition.

Which brings the real poser - just how do you plot your way through the minefield of the knockout stages with players being eliminated?

If you used the allocation of five transfers wisely prior to the Round of 16 cut-off you may have a full quota of 15 players. For many, though, that will not be the case. And that's where the skill and judgement comes in. And a bit of luck too.

Success is based largely on making the correct calls on which teams will advance into the latter stages. It means the latest allocation of five transfers will not be frittered away before a ball has even been kicked in the final eight.

Despite Bayern's masterful performance in the last round, the stature of Barcelona means they are no longer a sure fire hit. That accolade belongs to Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson's team may be experiencing a few jitters in the Premier League, but in the Champions League they have been handed the plum draw of FC Porto. Granted, the Portuguese side may remember that famous season, with Jose Mourinho in charge, when they dumped the Red Devils out on their own turf. But there's no Jose this time and with United at home first they seem a fantasy shoe-in.

Nemanja Vidic is in sixth place in the overall points standings despite only playing in the second leg against Inter Milan, his goal making him the top defender.

And Edwin van der Sar - along with Liverpool's Jose Reina - was able to celebrate two clean sheets. Of course, there will be usual clamour for Cristiano Ronaldo and the striking duo of Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney.

A word of warning, though, about the availability of the Bulgarian forward Berbatov. He missed out on World Cup qualifying duty due to injury and must, at this stage, be a doubt for the first leg on April 7.

The problem with the diminishing stock of players, especially when the top clubs are all going through, is managing your budget. If you throw all your cash at the top players today you may find it's a struggle to keep a full quota in the game once we get to the semi-finals. So, there are two possible tactics.

First, there are those who look to keep 15 players alive and kicking. The only way to achieve this is to either take risks on players from the less-fancied teams, such as Villarreal, or to go down the list at the bigger clubs. And the second option certainly provides more scope for protection of transfers.

So what does this mean? Ignore the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand and look to players such as John O'Shea who are likely to play but cost you much less. Budgetary balancing - that is the key to this tactic. Who else could you use to create space in that £100m limit? Consider Emmanuel Eboue (£5.5m), Abou Diaby (£6m), Seydou Keita (£6.5m), Xabi Alonso (£6.5m), Javier Mascherano (£5.5m), Michael Carrick (£6.5m), Nicklas Bendtner (£6m) and Lukas Podolski (£7m).

Eventually every team will be playing short on numbers. And the over-riding rule is to look after your attacking players first and defenders second. Midfielders and forwards win you points, they cannot cost you other than for disciplinary reasons.

The other opinion is to work with just 11 players and make sure they are the top performers and bring a guaranteed haul. It means killing your bench by signing four of the cheapest possible players in the game and it's a dangerous tactic as it does, overall, reduce your scoring options. However, pick correctly with a team of 11 star names and it can prove to be more rewarding than working with rotation.

Which way will you go?

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