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Martino On Messi & Super Mario

Lionel Messi is expected to start for Barcelona against AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

La Pulga Atomica has finally recovered from his recent hamstring injury.

He came on as a second-half substitute against Osasuna at the weekend, but was unable to influence the game in Barca’s favour.

But given 90 minutes to wreak havoc against the Rossoneri, he will be expected to play a major role in what Barca hope will be an edifying group stage victory.

“We did not want to risk him from the start,” Barca boss Gerardo Martino said of Messi’s weekend cameo.

“He recovered much more quickly than we thought -- it was expected he would only be back in training this week -- so we thought it most prudent to give him just some minutes in Pamplona so he would feel better ahead of the games coming up now.

“He has the medical all-clear, so the risks are the same as with any other player.”

Martino says that defenders Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano are also fit to play against Milan.

“When you call up a player to the squad it is because he is ready to play,” Martino said.

“I said it last week about [Carles] Puyol, and it is the same today about Javier and Pique, who could have played against Osasuna. I look for risks -- and try to protect the players.”

While he has high hopes of fielding his best XI, Martino is holding thumbs that Milan’s star man does not recover in time for the game.

Striker Mario Balotelli missed Milan’s weekend win over Udinese with a calf injury, but has been included in their squad to play if passed fit.

And Martino says that he would obviously prefer it if the Italian international maverick was unable to take to the field.

“I could give you two answers -- one from our point of view and one from the perspective of the fans,” he said about Super Mario.

“When stars do not play it is bad for the fans, but good for the opposition players.”

Read: Messi Back In Training

Read: Panenka Hopes Messi Tries His Technique

Read: Osasuna Frustrate Barca

Martino Blames Injury For Messi's Malaise

Masch: Martino Knows Barca System

Hola 'Tata!' Martino Arrives

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