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Barry wants another battle with Petrov

Gareth Barry is hoping for the chance to square up to close friend Stiliyan Petrov in the Premier League once again.

Barry, 31, was among a crowd of Petrov's current and former team-mates at a charity dinner in honour of the Bulgaria international, who is battling to return to the football pitch after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

The pair have remained in touch since Barry left for Manchester City three seasons ago and the England midfielder has dreamt about coming face-to-face with Petrov, 33, once again at Villa Park.

"Every time I see him he's looking better. I am hoping he can keep improving," Barry said. "It would be great to think we could shake hands on the pitch in the coming years and then have a right good battle in central midfield and then enjoy a big hug after the game.

"Stan isn't silly. He knows he needs time to recover and get back to normal, but I also know how much Stan loves football too. I know what it would mean for him to get back into football and on the pitch."

Barry expressed his heartbreak at hearing the news of his former team-mate's illness yet believes Petrov is strong enough to pull through.

"My heart sank when I heard about Stan's leukaemia diagnosis. I have known Stan for many years. I know his wife and his two children really well too. I was thinking of them all. If anyone could beat it, it's Stan because of his incredible strength of character. It's started really well and I'm just praying now that he can take that on, fully recover and have a wonderful life with his fantastic family."

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