Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas says he has returned to training after the winter break intent on winning his place back in the team and helping his side put their recent problems behind them.
Casillas was surprisingly dropped by Madrid boss Jose Mourinho for the club's final game of 2012, with Antonio Adan starting instead in the 3-2 Primera Division loss at Malaga, but reports in the Spanish media this week say he will be back between the sticks for Sunday's clash with Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu.
"I am training to fight and battle to regain my place," Casillas said. "That is the objective I have marked out, that the coach will decide to count on me for the next game. I am not a machine and know I can improve. Then it will be up to the coach."
Casillas was speaking with reporters after New Year's Day training, with Mourinho having decided against giving his squad the day off as they look to refocus after Christmas and try to eat into Barcelona's 16 point advantage at the top of La Liga. The Spain goalkeeper admitted the general situation at the club could be better, but denied that tension in the camp was a problem.
"Tension is not the right word," Casillas said. "It is the situation in La Liga. We are not on the path where we should be. When things do not go well, morale is lower."
Speculation in the Spanish media of a feud between him and Madrid's Portuguese goalkeeping coach Silvino Louro was untrue, Casillas said.
"I have learned many things with Silvino Louro," he said. "The daily work with him is very good. He reminds me of [previous goalkeeping coaches] Xavi Mancisidor, Jaro, Amierio, Tancredi... I have learned a lot from them all. Each one teaches you something each day."
Casillas admitted that Philippe Montanier's in-form Sociedad side might fancy their chances of taking something from Sunday's game given Madrid's recent results.
"They are coming off a very good run," he said. "They know we lost in Malaga. Teams are coming at us to take us on. Before they saw they were up against a strong and powerful Madrid. Now they see an opponent who is not in good form."
'San Iker' said three points for his side, and then overturning a 2-1 deficit in next Wednesday's Copa del Rey last-16 second leg at home to Celta Vigo, would be a good start to 2013.
"We need to get back the taste of victory and to make sure we make the next round in the cup," he said. "Last season we beat every possible record. We cannot lower our arms or think that this is lost. We must run more and train more."