Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is stepping up his bid to persuade key midfielder Stiliyan Petrov to sign a new contract.
Petrov, who joined from Celtic for Â£6million in the summer of 2006, has only 15 months left on his current deal but O'Neill has claimed after the closure of the January transfer window that getting Petrov to put pen to paper was his "top priority."
He has held talks with representatives of the Bulgarian international and will be speaking directly to Petrov in the next few days. O'Neill said: "I have spoken to Stiliyan's agent and we would be hoping to be speaking (to Petrov) very shortly."
He added: "I spoke to him before we went out to Dubai recently for a training break and we will be having a meeting sometime in the very near future.
"After a difficult start at the football club, Stiliyan was determined to show he could make an impact in the Premier League and he has been excellent for us."
Meanwhile, O'Neill admits it is now unlikely skipper Martin Laursen will return from a knee problem against Manchester United on April 5 as originally planned.
The former Denmark international has been sidelined since early January and suffered a setback in his rehabilitation when training in Dubai.
O'Neill said: "I was hoping Martin would be back for the Manchester United game but I wouldn't be convinced about that now.
"Since he has come back (from Dubai) the knee has settled down a bit and he is feeling not so bad but maybe it is an indication of where we are with the knee rather than rushing it through."
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