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MILAN

‘Only perfect Milan will beat Barcelona’

Barcelona visit the San Siro on Tuesday and are widely expected to capitalise on the Rossoneri's domestic woes to secure their third successive win in the group having already beaten Ajax (4-0) and Celtic (1-0).

'Only perfect Milan will beat Barcelona'
Barcelona are making their fourth visit to the San Siro in as many seasons. Photo: Quique García/AFP

Only a "perfect" AC Milan will allow the depleted Serie A giants to emerge with an "important" result from their Champions League Group H clash with Barcelona, says coach Massimiliano Allegri.

The Catalan giants are making their fourth visit to the San Siro in as many seasons, having accounted for the Italians in the group stages in 2011, in the quarter-finals in 2012 and in last season's last 16 knockout phase.

Despite being held to a scoreless draw by Osasuna on Saturday, when ailing Lionel Messi was restricted to a cameo appearance late on, Barça coach Gerardo Martino insists his side already have a place in the last 16 knockout phase in their sights.

"It's a crucial game for us in terms of qualification from the group. If we win, we will be more or less qualified," Martino told reporters at the San Siro on Monday.

Martino, whose side face bitter rivals Real Madrid in 'El Clasico' next weekend, played down the result of last weekend's La Liga encounter.

"We didn't get a great result but we still played well. Sometimes it's just as important to see a solid performance from your team as it is to get the result," he added.

"It's an important week for us – we're meeting two sides that have a big tradition in Europe – but it's only the start of the season and we'll have many other big games ahead."

Barcelona won the last of their four Champions League titles in 2011, but reached the semi-finals in both 2012 and 2013 when eventual winners Chelsea and Bayern Munich respectively ended the Spaniards' dreams of making the final.

Against Milan, Barcelona have enjoyed the upper hand in recent seasons. A third win in the group would put them on nine points, five ahead of Milan at the halfway stage.

Martino's men succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the San Siro last season but turned on the style at the Nou Camp where a first-half brace from Messi helped settle nerves before an eventual 4-0 romp.

Messi, returning from a thigh strain last weekend, played only the last 22 minutes against Osasuna but Martino hinted the Argentinian could be primed to start.

"The doctors have cleared him to play and as soon as they say that, then he is available," said Martino. "It would have been a risk to play him from the start in Pampluna, but having seen him I think he will be ready."

Injury-hit Milan, meanwhile, have been given a boost with the news that striker Mario Balotelli, who won and scored a penalty to level late for Milan in a 1-1 draw ta Ajax last time out, has been named to Milan's squad.

The 23-year-old had been expected to sit out as he recovers from a thigh problem but could now start on the bench.

Martino admitted the striker, if he plays, could make the difference: "As a coach I'd prefer for him not to play, but as a fan it's different."

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ENVIRONMENT

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.

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