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Hunter: Neymar has a tough choice

La Liga
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Spain coach Julen Lopetegui: Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique get along fine

Alejandro Moreno believes Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos must balance their competitive fire and defensive responsibilities.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has played down the ongoing spat between Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos.

The Barcelona and Real Madrid defenders have regularly clashed while defending their own teams' interests, with the most recent chapter taking place during the Clasico at the end of April.

After being sent off, Ramos made a number of gestures in Pique's direction and the two exchanged words via the media after Barca's 3-2 win.

"I can't control what happens off the pitch, but on the pitch their relationship is excellent," Lopetegui told Rac1 on Thursday when asked if he thought it could affect the national team.

"We have got a solid, committed and well-connected group. It's a healthy and happy team."

Speaking after April's match at the Santiago Bernabeu, Pique said Ramos' red card for a mis-timed challenge on Lionel Messi had been completely deserved.

Explaining his reaction to being expelled, Ramos responded: "Pique likes to talk about referees. I said to him [when leaving the pitch] that with so much pressure and complaining in every tweet, it's going to end up having an effect."

However, Ramos maintains that the two have a functioning relationship and that has always proved true when they have partnered each other in the middle of La Roja's defence.

They remain Lopetegui's first choice centre-half partnership as Spain look to book their place at next summer's World Cup in Russia. They currently lead their qualification group ahead of Italy on goal difference.

Pique has already announced that he will retire from international football after the tournament due to tense relationship he has with the supporters.

Comments directed at Real Madrid in defence of Barca have often seen him jeered by his own fans and he decided earlier this season that he would walk away from the Spain team in 2018.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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