Pepe: ‘We have hit our best form’

Real Madrid defender Pepe has said the team is perfectly prepared for the Champions League clash with Manchester United on Tuesday after notching up a second win over Barcelona in less than five days on Saturday.

Pepe: 'We have hit our best form'
Real Madrid defender Pepe (right) celebrates with teammate Di María after their team's second win against Barça in five days. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

The Spanish champions even had the luxury of resting a number of key players as Jose Mourinho made seven changes from the side that had beaten Barça 3-1 in the Copa del Rey in midweek and Pepe believes that only goes to show the incredible wealth of options Mourinho has to choose from.

"We have hit our best form. Apart from Iker Casillas we have everyone available and the manager has great solutions on the bench as today showed," he said.

"We have achieved two important victories given the form and quality of the opponent we were playing and that gives us great motivation for the Manchester United game. We are happy and now we need to rest and think about the game on Tuesday."

Sergio Ramos' header proved to be the winner nine minutes from time after Lionel Messi had equalled Alfredo Di Stefano's record of 18 goals in meetings between the two in the first half to cancel out Karim Benzema's opener.

But Barça were left furious at the end when Messi wasn't given the chance to salvage a point for his side when referee Miguel Perez Lasa turned down strong penalty claims in stoppage time after Ramos appeared to have felled Adriano inside the area.

The appeals were so ferocious that goalkeeper Victor Valdés was shown a red card after the final whistle had gone and Pepe was quick to point out that the Barça players had let themselves down by the way they reacted towards the referee.

"I didn't see the incident clearly because it happened behind me. People have said to me that it is not a penalty and the referee had a good game, he didn't benefit one team or the other.

"I saw situations which I never thought I would see with Barça. The way they surrounded the referee at the end to protest is not the lovely image that they try to portray every day. They will be sad having lost two games to us."

Once again it was Barça's defensive weaknesses that were exposed as for the first time since 1962 they have now conceded for 13 consecutive games.

However, defender Jordi Alba insisted that despite three defeats in four games the Catalans were still confident of overcoming a 2-0 deficit against AC Milan in their own crucial Champions League tie in just over a week's time.

"We leave without a point but we still have a good lead over Atlético and Real Madrid. It was a very even game and the fair result would have been a draw," he said.

"We have been able to have possession, but in long balls and set-pieces they have caused a lot of damage. We need to give everything and more to go through the tie against Milan but we still believe in ourselves."

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Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.