MADRID: Spain’s national team is to play a match in Barcelona for the first time in 18 years and after a decade of tension over Catalonia independence demands.

The Spanish federation has confirmed its intention of staging a friendly against Albania in the 40,000-capacity Espanyol stadium on March 26.

Coach Luis Enrique’s men will then face Iceland in La Coruna three days later.

Spain last played in Barcelona, in the Montjuic Olympic stadium, against Peru on February 18, 2004. The team, then under the management of José Antonio Camacho won 2-1 with goals from Baraja and Joseba Etxeberria.

The last time Spain a competitive match in Barcelona was a 2-0 win over Denmark on October 12, 1975. Goal scorers in the old Sarria stadium were Pirri and Capón.

In October 2017 a referendum on Catalan indepence was organised by the regional government. The Spanish government declared the poll illegal and though an overwhelming majority voted “Yes” it was shunned by opponents.

Nine leaders of the pro-independence movement were later jailed for sedition; four were also found guilty of misuse of public funds.