Stiliyan Petrov is ready to welcome back Gareth Barry for Aston Villa’s Uefa Cup mission tonight admitting his midfield partner’s future could have a bearing on his contract talks.
Petrov, like Barry, has just one year to run on his Villa Park deal and manager Martin O’Neill is keen to tie down both for longer with improved terms.
The engine room pair will be reunited against CSKA Moscow this evening when Villa aim to get a first-leg advantage over Zico’s Russians at the last 32 stage of the Uefa Cup.
Barry returns to the starting line-up after a one-match ban against Everton for accumulating five bookings and will replace Steve Sidwell, suspended after his red card in Hamburg.
“Gareth mentioned if Villa were showing they could fight for the Champions League there’s no point moving,” said Petrov. “So far we’ve been showing that so maybe Gareth will be happy staying longer at Villa and have more success with the team he’s been with for 11 years. We all hope he’s going to stay because he’s one of the best midfielders in the country.”
Asked if Barry staying would encourage him to sign an extended contract, Petrov replied: “It will have a big influence.
“If a team wants to keep other players it needs to keep its best players.
“The manager will try to show everybody he wants to build something big here and one of the things is to keep Gareth because he’s maybe the most important player in this club.”
Petrov, who will return the armband to Barry in the continued absence of Martin Laursen, believes Barry is now an automatic starter in Fabio Capello’s England team.
The Bulgarian midfielder feels Villa must ensure they remain in the top four to make Barry’s mind up for him and force him to commit his future to the claret and blue cause.
“The performances he’s produced this season have been outstanding, not just for Villa, but for England too,” said Petrov.
“That’s why he’s one of the main men for Capello.
“A foreign manager has come in and you’ve got names like Gerrard already very established in the national team, but I think Gareth is maybe the first on the sheet for Capello because of the way he’s been playing and the character he is.
“We’ll try to make it really hard for Gareth to choose what he’s got to do.
“We’ll try to keep him here by showing him that we can challenge the big teams, we can give him what he wants and it’s up to him what he decides. We need to make sure that we won’t give him that chance. It’s up to us to try and stay in the top four to keep one of the best players at the club.”
Petrov insists Villa have done their homework on CSKA Moscow and will not be taking tonight’s opponents lightly.
“A lot of people think we can pass them easy because their season hasn’t started yet and they’re just doing pre-season,” he said.
“But we already know about them. We’ve had a few DVDs to look at on a few of their players and they look a very serious team.
“They look a very good strong team with pace and with players that can play football and can hurt you,” he added.
Emile Heskey is still sidelined by the Achilles tendon problem he aggravated on England duty, but Curtis Davies is fit to play after dislocating his shoulder.