Mission impossible Madrid face daunting challenge to close 16-POINT gap on rivals Barcelona
13:07 GMT, 5 January 2013
13:33 GMT, 5 January 2013
Real Madrid will start what many believe to be mission impossible when the Primera Division restarts for them tomorrow.
Jose Mourinho's side take on Real Sociedad with the gap between them and leaders Barcelona standing at 16 points.
For even the most ardent Madrid fan, a successful title defence would appear to be impossible, with the Champions League now the primary focus.
Back in action: Real Madrid train ahead of their match with Real Sociedad
According to defender Alvaro Arbeloa, though, they just have to carry on as normal.
'Real Sociedad are in their best form and it is going to be a difficult match, but we will go into it with desire and belief.
'I just want to win all of our matches from now until the end of the season.'
One sideshow will be who Mourinho starts in goal. There was uproar before Christmas when the Portuguese opted to sit out Iker Casillas and go with Antonio Adam playing in the loss to Malaga.
'The fans will support Real Madrid because they are fans of Real Madrid and not just of Casillas,' said Arbeloa, trying to play down any possible rows.
'It is important that they support the players, but also that they support the team. Whoever plays will have the support of his team-mates.'
Speculation: Jose Mourinho could leave Real Madrid in the summer
The lure of a third Champions League title is thought to be driving Mourinho on this season, while the Copa del Rey still remains an option.
Arbeloa does not look at it that way, however, and wants every game to be treated the same.
'If this team wants to win trophies, it is impossible to do that without competing and giving everything in La Liga, and so it is difficult to give everything in the Copa,' he said.
'You cannot pick one day to play well and relax on other days.
'I would just aim to win all the matches. It could be that the Champions League is an easier objective than La Liga, but we are not a team that goes onto the pitch without giving our all every weekend and then does in the Champions League.
Rested: Madrid return after the winter break 16 points behind Barcelona
'We have to face all the challenges in our path and to do that you have to win in all the competitions.'
Sociedad head to the capital upwardly mobile. They are seventh in the table and have been producing some eye-catching performances under Philippe Montanier.
Some have backed them to spring a surprise and, although he will not call this a chance, Sociedad midfielder David Zurutuza does acknowledge there have been worse times to play Madrid.
'I don't think there is any good moment to visit the Bernabeu, but yes, if I had to choose a time it would be now, because they are missing important players,' he said.