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Low expectations suit Gilberto

Published: Tuesday 28 March 2006, 11.42CET
Gilberto tells that Arsenal FC can use their status as "dark horses" to add the scalp of Italian champions Juventus to that of Real Madrid CF.
by Fernando Duarte & Brian Brownstein features

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Published: Tuesday 28 March 2006, 11.42CET

Low expectations suit Gilberto

Gilberto tells that Arsenal FC can use their status as "dark horses" to add the scalp of Italian champions Juventus to that of Real Madrid CF.

Gilberto believes Arsenal FC can use their underdog status to their advantage against European giants Juventus in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

Contrasting fortunes
The Bianconeri have appeared in seven European Champion Clubs' Cup finals and are dominating Serie A this season, while Arsenal have never been beyond the last eight of this competition and occupy sixth place in the Premiership after an inconsistent campaign. But following the English team's first knockout round defeat of Real Madrid CF, Gilberto says history and form will count for nothing in the first leg at Highbury tonight.

'Dark horses'
"Any of the other seven opponents would have been tough for us, but Juventus was arguably the hardest draw," Gilberto told "But I still feel quite happy. This situation, where we arrive as dark horses, could prove to be beneficial for us. We are going to need the same spirit we showed against Madrid to go through as underdogs again, though."

Old colleague
The game marks the return of former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira to north London for the first time since his €20m transfer to Turin last summer. Gilberto partnered the Frenchman in the Gunners midfield for three seasons and knows Vieira's strengths well. "I have played with a lot of good players in my career, but I can easily say Patrick was the best of the lot," explained the 29-year-old Brazilian international. "He has all the qualities you want in a top-class player. His leadership, quality and courage were remarkable and that is why it was so hard for everybody to take Patrick's departure. It was a very sad moment when he left, especially because nobody was expecting him to go."

Highbury welcome
Gilberto expects Vieira to be well received by the Arsenal faithful, but admits the pressure will be on him to perform. "Patrick played an unforgettable part in Arsenal's history and the Gunners fans must welcome him warmly as a simple matter of gratitude for all Patrick did for the club and for the commitment he always showed. We will be meeting our leader once again, a person who was fantastic not only as a player, but as a team-mate and a human being. It will be a very emotional affair."

False comparison
Spanish international Cesc Fabregas has stepped into Vieira's shoes this season, with the 18-year-old starring in Arsenal's European adventure. However, Gilberto rules out comparisons between the teenager and his illustrious predecessor. "Even though he is doing fantastically well, I don't think it's fair to compare Cesc to Vieira. Let the boy write his own history," Gilberto said. "Cesc is learning fast and has everything he needs to turn himself into one of Arsenal's greatest players. But he needs time. It's encouraging to see him learn how important good positioning is on the pitch. I'm sure he is on the right path to greatness."

Last updated: 28/03/06 13.11CET

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