By Chris Harris

Mikael Silvestre is glad to be back doing what he loves best - playing football for the Arsenal first-team.

The French defender was in high spirits at the start of the campaign after shrugging off the injuries which hampered him last term but he could not force his way into Arsène Wenger's side thanks to the fitness and form of Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas.

Silvestre has started only four games - three of them in the Carling Cup - but the 32-year-old will lead Arsenal out against Olympiacos at the Karaiskakis Stadium tonight. He is relishing the chance to return to the limelight and insists he can still do a job at the highest level.

"It has been difficult to stay in shape because you can train as hard as you want but the reality is that a game is completely different," said Silvestre.

"I have managed to stay fit and be able to compete. I've shown I still have the pace to play at the top level.
"I've been involved in some good games already this season. Tomorrow will be another one."

The likes of Tom Cruise and Kyle Bartley could make their first-team debuts alongside Silvestre in the Arsenal back four and the French veteran believes he can guide the young Gunners through their big night in Athens.

"So far we've gone through the team shape during training," he said. "They are proud so I think sometimes it will come later [when they ask for advice].

"But they will run for me. I expect them to give everything they have for 90 minutes because they have the energy. We have to take advantage of that."

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9 Dec 2009