Spain the 11th Team to Qualify for the 2018 World Cup

Spain Albania graphic

Bitter rivals at club level with Barcelona and Real Madrid, Pique and Ramos have largely put their regular verbal jibes aside when forming an intimidating partnership as two of the world's best centre-backs for a decade.

"It has been a hard, complicated week and fortunately we managed to do that in a very, very good first 30 minutes", Spanish coach was quoted as saying by Spanish TV channel Teledeporte.

"We need to be more positive in this country", Lopetegui said.

On Wednesday, reports claimed that the Roja defenders had fallen out over the Catalan star's public political views, and that they were not on talking terms.

"I'm just a coach and I have to promote the values of sport and pass that on to my players".

Lopetegui is confident that Spain fans will stand by the team at the Jose Rico Perez stadium.

Coach Julen Lopetegui is also without the suspended David Silva and Gerard Pique, who will be spared numerous boos from his own fans following his outspoken support of a referendum for Catalonia's independence.

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"The fans in Alicante are very enthusiastic about this game and know the importance of it", he said.

Italy were stunned as lowly rated Macedonia held them at home, at the Stadio Olimpico. In the last round Albania in a draw 1: 1 played with the Macedonian team in early September.

The Manchester City midfielder is the only player Lopetegui has used in all 13 games he has taken charge of to date.

Ramos had previously suggested that it was not the best idea for to tweet about the referendum as he was likely to be whistled during Spain national team matches.

Third-placed Ukraine defeat bottom-side Kosovo 2-0 to join Serbia on 17 points, but they have an inferior goal difference.

Elsewhere, Lopetegui is spoilt for choice as numerous under-21 team he led to win the European Championships in 2013 have made the step up.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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