Sergio Ramos: Gerard Pique and I put club rivalry aside when with Spain
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos says he and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique enjoy getting under each other's skin but when it comes to playing for Spain they put their club rivalry aside.
Both players joined the national team at its headquarters in Las Rozas, Madrid, on Monday to start preparing for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Israel.
Just hours before, La Liga announced the date and time for the second Clasico of the season that will see Madrid host Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 23.
"Pique and I like to throw each other pebbles but as soon as I see him, I'm going to give him a hug," Ramos is quoted as saying by Marca.
Last month, Pique hinted on Twitter that La Liga leaders Madrid were getting preferential treatment from referees.
Ramos says he was not surprised by his controversial posts and added "we already know about Pique's world, where everything's a plot against him."
"It's the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, that will always exist," Ramos said. "I'm not going to deny that we have become accustomed to it. We don't take it badly, it's all very sporting."
Ramos has also been outspoken about the rivalry between the two sides.
Asked last month if he enjoyed watching Barcelona lose 4-0 at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg, Ramos said: "I won't say no. I don't like to see my friends suffer, but obviously I don't like Barcelona to win."
When Barca became the first club in the competition's history to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit after their 6-1 home win against PSG on March 8 to reach the Champions League quarterfinals, Ramos ironically remarked: "Barca's comeback was historic...in every sense." PSG complained after the game about the refereeing mistakes that went in Barca's favour.
Pique did not take offence and said: "I didn't get angry with Sergio Ramos' words. That night against PSG was historic as Ramos said."
Pique and Ramos have played 61 games together for Spain and have won a World Cup and European Championship alongside each other.
"The key of the [national team's] success is the unity of the group," Ramos said.
Pique is known for riling Madrid players and fans with his use of Twitter.
In December 2015, Pique expressed his delight when Madrid were expelled from the 2015-16 Copa del Rey for fielding ineligible player Denis Cheryshev in the last 32 of the competition and posted nine laughing emojis.
Ramos, who scored a last-minute header to hand Madrid an equaliser in the first Clasico of the season in December, is hoping to guide the club to their first La Liga title since 2012. Madrid are two points clear of Barcelona at the top of the standings.
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.