Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane called for patience after his side lost ground at the top of LaLiga following a frustrating goalless draw against Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu.
Barcelona had gone into the Christmas break on the back of Saturday’s 4-1 win over Alaves to keep the pressure on in the title battle.
After El Clasico finished 0-0 in midweek, failure to find a breakthrough against a resolute Bilbao side – hitting the woodwork on three occasions – meant Los Blancos recorded successive goalless draws in the league for the first time since 2006.
Zidane’s men are now once again two points behind their rivals, but the Frenchman is confident the goals and results will soon come again when action resumes in January.
“I am very disappointed for my players and their effort. They have made a great game, but they have missed getting a goal again,” the Real Madrid boss said.
“We had three or four chances, but this is football and there are runs. You have to be calm because the work has been phenomenal again.”
Zidane told a press conference: “I am very happy for the evolution of the team. We had difficulties at the beginning (of the season), but we are much better – and we are strong defensively.
“Today we lacked a goal, but the important thing is to create occasions. We are going to change this in 2020.”
Quizzed on if Madrid need more attacking reinforcements in January after a run of three goals from their last four league games, Zidane insisted: “No, absolutely not.
“It’s streaks, it’s only two games we haven’t scored. When we get back to winning, we’re going to get over it, with peace of mind. In the end, we don’t need anything. We need to get on with what we’re doing.”
Bilbao – who had not won a LaLiga game at the Bernabeu for almost 15 years – threatened when Inaki Williams held off Militao to send a low shot towards the bottom corner, which Thibaut Courtois palmed past the post.
Mikel Vesga picked out Kenan Kodro, who drilled the ball past Courtois into the top corner – only for the goal to be ruled out by what looked a marginal offside decision.
Madrid upped the tempo following the restart but continued to face a resolute Bilbao rearguard.
With three minutes left, substitute Luka Jovic saw his downward header from Dani Carvajal’s cross clip the inside of the post and bounce out as Bilbao held on.
Visiting manager Gaizka Garitano told reporters: “To get something here you also have to have some luck, but we have finished the game very well.
“In the second half I liked what we have done more. The work of the group has been very good.
“We have to improve and keep growing. We are working as much as we can. We have to improve away from home because in San Mames we are very well. As it is Real Madrid, this point has a lot of merit.”