After Victor Valdes's disheartening injury, Barcelona most put on a brave face and finish all three competitions. It was a given that Jose Manuel Pinto would start the Copa del Rey Final against Real Madrid, but now, he will most likely start all remaining Liga games and at least two Champions League matches in addition.
While some murmured about a possible keeper signing, coach Gerardo Martino was not buying it. "That's not an option unless we have another injury," he said.
Pinto is the oldest player in the squad; at 38, he's only 5 years younger than ex-coach Pep Guardiola. Well-liked in the dressing room in spite of, or perhaps partially because of, his fiery attitude. Pinto was Guardiola's very first signing and has played cup matches for Barcelona since.
He's won the Spanish Cup twice now, losing one final. A former Ricardo Zamora (Best Liga Goalkeeper) trophy winner with Celta, Pinto certainly has the skills to play in a top team. Despite his experience, he has never been given a task quite as big as this one.
Still, there's reason to be confident in his ability.
This season, Pinto has played 15 games, conceding 11 goals. Meanwhile, Valdes has played in 34 games, conceding 25 goals. Those goals-against averages are near identical. In La Liga, Valdes's save percentage is 76.4 while Pinto's is 77.8 (per NBC Sports). Pinto's numbers are just slightly better overall, though he has played arguably lesser opposition.
While Pinto is known for taking sometimes-unnecessary risks, the same could be said of Valdes. Both are capable of awe-inspiring play and hair-pulling moments.
This season, possibly his last at Barcelona, Valdes has been doing a lot more of the former. Will Pinto follow him?
He will certainly need help from his defense. Gerard Pique is inconsistent while Javier Mascherano is obviously... short. However, they are extremely talented and when required - with the help of the rest of the team to keep possession, press, and track back - can shut down even the strongest of opposition attacks. Manchester City can attest to that.
While the squad certainly has confidence in Pinto, it's unclear how much trust can be put on Oier Olazabal, promoted from 3rd keeper to 2nd-choice.
Oier is a La Masia product, a mainstay at Barcelona B for 6 years, and an occasional call-up for Spain's youth teams. Oier has made two appearances for the Barcelona senior team his whole career. That may change.
Pinto has suffered from back problems that have kept him away at certain points, and it's possible that he could miss matches due to bans or injury. Should that occur, Oier will have to take a huge step up career-wise.
Clearly, Oier is not that fancied around Spain. At 24, he should be approaching a finished product (David De Gea is younger, for a point of reference.) He's remained the third-choice keeper at Barca.
That means he remains an unknown quantity for most. While Pinto will be expected to perform at the level he's shown he's capable of, Oier, if called upon, will be given perhaps one last shot to show Barcelona his value.