Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas admitted on Tuesday the players are unhappy after dropping 16 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona but denied any tensions in the changing room and vowed to fight to regain his spot after being unexpectedly left on the bench last month.
Casillas tried to calm a storm of speculation over splits in the club after coach Jose Mourinho dropped him from the starting line-up on December 23 against Malaga at La Roselada, a game Real Madrid lost 3-2. Mourinho insists the decision was taken on technical grounds alone.
Asked about any tensions in the dressing room, the 31-year-old keeper said: "The word is not tension. The situation in the league, when we have had certain defeats, is not what we want. We all want to win and when things don't turn out well we are sad because we want to win for ourselves and our fans."
In his first news conference of 2013, the Real Madrid captain said he hoped the Christmas break would help the team recover, recalling their defeat to Malaga and the number of points they have now allowed to ratch up behind the first division leaders.
"We cannot carry on like that and it is not what we expected. We must not give up. We have to carry on, to run more, train more and let the results come on the field. Now, in 2013 we have to try to catch up points and know that the situation is difficult but not impossible."
Casillas said he felt fit, however, and would battle to regain his place for Sunday's match against Real Sociedad.
"I feel fine, really. I am training. I think I have to improve every day. I am not a machine. I, too, have to learn from my mistakes and of course there are moments when you are better or worse but sincerely I feel fine," he said.
Asked if he had lost his hunger to win more titles, the Spain captain said: "When I don't have that hope I won't be sitting here."
Casillas said he agreed with Mourinho that "our aim is to have the ambition and the will. I have to fight and battle and try to regain the spot. That is the goal I have set out and I hope the coach will count on me in the starting line-up this Sunday."
The captain said he had spoken to Real Madrid defender Pepe, who fed the rumours swirling around the troubled club last week when he told a newspaper in Portugal that Portuguese players were under pressure in La Liga.
"He was referring to when we go other pitches and play away. They always have an excitable reception. We have to call for calm in football in general. People should support their team but keep up a certain appearance," Casillas said.
The hugely popular player said he expected a tough match against Real Sociedad this weekend at the Bernabeu.
"It is going to be difficult. They have had a very good streak and they have been preparing for the match for some time. Teams look at us differently than they did last year but it is up to us to gain respect. They are coming to the Bernabeu and will do their best. We have to try to win and forget the past."