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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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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