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Gilberto underlines Panathinaikos desire

Published: Tuesday 16 September 2008, 21.31CET
As Panathinaikos FC prepare to return to the group stage, Brazil midfielder Gilberto makes assurances that his team-mates will not let a lack of experience hold them back against FC Internazionale Milano.
by Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
from Athens
Gilberto underlines Panathinaikos desire
Gilberto in qualifying action against Sparta ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

PanathinaikosInternazionale

Goals scored10
 
8
Attempts on target38
 
45
Attempts off target44
 
59
Corners48
 
45
Offsides26
 
27
Fouls committed160
 
142
Yellow cards15
 
12
Red cards0
 
0
 
Published: Tuesday 16 September 2008, 21.31CET

Gilberto underlines Panathinaikos desire

As Panathinaikos FC prepare to return to the group stage, Brazil midfielder Gilberto makes assurances that his team-mates will not let a lack of experience hold them back against FC Internazionale Milano.

Having worked for a common cause while on duty with Brazil last week, Gilberto must now look to get one over his international colleagues Júlio César and Maicon when Panathinaikos FC tackle FC Internazionale Milano in Tuesday's opening UEFA Champions League Group B fixture.

Experienced hand
The 31-year-old played alongside the Internazionale duo as Brazil beat Chile in FIFA World Cup qualifying, but was suspended for the subsequent goalless draw against Bolivia – keeping Gilberto waiting for his 64th cap for the Seleção. It is that type of experience which prompted Panathinaikos to move for the Arsenal FC midfielder in July, ending their search for a wise head to guide a young squad attempting to return to the group stage after an absence of three years.

Mission accomplished
This mission was accomplished when Gilberto helped the Greens eliminate AC Sparta Praha in the third qualifying round, but the true test lies ahead as they meet Inter, Werder Bremen and Cypriot newcomers Anorthosis Famagusta FC in a section the Italian champions are expected to dominate. Looking forward to the opener against the Nerazzurri, Gilberto said: "It won't be easy, that's for sure. This is the highest level and every match is difficult. We'll need to respect all our opponents, not just teams of Inter's calibre. Inter's players are more experienced than ours. At Panathinaikos, we have many young players in our ranks and we lack this sort of experience, both as group and as individuals."

'Positive result'
Indeed, only nine players in the Athenian club's squad have prior knowledge of the UEFA Champions League – and their combined squad tally of 155 appearances is dwarfed by the 748 made by those from the blue-and-black half of Milan. Nevertheless, Gilberto is confident that a lack of know-how will be no obstacle to his team when they take the field at the OACA Spyro Louis Stadium. "Rest assured that we'll fight to the end," he said. "We'll do the best we can on the pitch. We have faith in our abilities and hopefully we will get a positive result. It's a big challenge for everyone, but if we want to be at the top we have to play against such teams."

Vieira link
As well as coming up against his Brazilian compatriots, Gilberto will also be renewing ties with former Arsenal team-mate Patrick Vieira, more than three years after they last played together in the 2005 FA Cup final victory against Manchester United FC. "It's been a long time since I last saw Patrick," said Gilberto, his smile betraying his affection for the Frenchman. "It will be nice to see him again. I look forward to it and I hope I will have a good game against these friends."

Last updated: 16/09/08 16.40CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2009/matches/round=15276/match=302699/prematch/focus/index.html#gilberto+underlines+panathinaikos+desire

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