Carlo Ancelotti insisted Real Madrid's performance against Real Sociedad on Sunday was "one of our best this season" despite being held to a goalless draw which saw the champions lose ground to La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Sociedad goalkeeper Alex Remiro was primarily responsible for frustrating Madrid at the Bernabeu, making a string of fine saves to deny the hosts victory and leave Barca five points clear at the top of La Liga.
After the Catalans beat Girona on Saturday, Madrid needed to win to stay three points behind their rivals in the title race, but Remiro ensured otherwise, keeping third-place Sociedad on the champions' tail.
Vinicius Junior had three good chances repelled by Remiro as Ancelotti's side sparkled but failed to find the goal their performance deserved.
"It was one of our best performances this season," Real Madrid manager Ancelotti said. "It was difficult to make substitutions because everyone was playing so well and I made them in order to bring fresh legs on. We played well from start to finish.
"The way we pressed from the start, didn't allow Real Sociedad to play the way they wanted to play. We pressed high and with intensity. We played well with the ball and we worked hard without it. We created a lot of chances to get the goal, but luck wasn't on our side. That can happen."
The draw continued a mixed start to 2023 for Real Madrid, slipping further behind Barca in the league and losing against their rivals in the Spanish Super Cup final, but reaching the Copa del Rey semis on Thursday with an extra-time win over Atletico Madrid.
While the inconsistent start to 2023, which also includes a league defeat to Villarreal and a win over Athletic Bilbao, falls short of the rampaging form that saw Real Madrid win La Liga and the Champions League last season, Ancelotti said there is no need to panic and he expects a strong second half of the season from his team. Madrid next face Valencia at home in La Liga on Thursday night.
"If we get a win on Thursday, we will have picked up more points than we did [this time] last year," the Italian said. "Barcelona are doing very well, but it's a long season. It's been a tough January, but the team has improved a lot in all areas: in attack, defence, the physical side. The team is improving and we've got some injured players coming back this week. We're confident about the coming months."
With two days left of the January transfer window, Ancelotti confirmed there will be no activity at Real Madrid, adding: “It’s closed in every respect, both in terms of exits and players coming in."