Gerardo Martino says Jose Manuel Pinto's ongoing back problems are not a serious concern as Barcelona’s backup goalkeeper prepares to play in Saturday’s Catalan capital derby at Espanyol’s Estadi Cornella-El Prat.
• Ledwith: Win tarnished
Pinto, 38, is set to feature in all of Barca’s remaining games this season with first-choice Victor Valdes having torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Wednesday’s 3-0 La Liga win over Celta Vigo. The veteran has been troubled by a long-standing back problem in recent months, but came from the bench against Celta and had few problems as his side kept a clean sheet.
Martino told a news conference after training on Friday that Pinto could play and train as normal at the moment, but did not completely rule out an emergency move to sign another keeper should the back issue flare up again.
“Pinto lives with the back problem, he trains with it and he has recovered well,” the Argentine coach said. “So it will not impede him from training and playing as normal. If we understand that this will force him aside at any moment then maybe we would do something else.”
The injury to Valdes had been yet another tough blow for Barca's squad, but overall he backed his team to move on without any serious issues, Martino said.
“We have all received the blow of Valdes’ loss, he himself most of all,” he said. “Having said that, this team has taken on difficult situations before and will come out of this even stronger. Pinto was going to play the Copa del Rey final. Well now he has 13 other finals to play.”
Martino also said that the 4-3 win at Real Madrid had boosted a side which was still low after the shock loss at Real Valladolid a few weeks’ before, while also ensuring Barca know that if they win all remaining eight games they will edge out Atletico Madrid to take the title.
“The win at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has lifted our mood so that what happened at Valladolid will not happen again,” he said. “The Real Madrid game marks a turning point, also as we are now in control of our own destiny. You have the impression [the title] will be decided right at the end between the three teams.”
Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves and Pedro Rodriguez could all return to the starting team for the game at local rivals Espanyol, for which Martino said he would not be resting anyone ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Atletico.
“We have eight finals left [in La Liga],” he said. “But this game is special because it is a derby. The eleven who go out to play will have nothing to do with rotations.”
Javier Aguirre’s Espanyol are safely in midtable with little left to play for this season, but Martino said he expected a tough battle against a team which Barca just edged out 1-0 at the Camp Nou last November.
“Espanyol are a very solid team, they press you a lot, they make you sweat in every game,” he said. “They also have an exceptional player in [former Barca youth team attacker] Sergio Garcia. One of those who can unbalance any defence.”