Stiliyan Petrov believes Aston Villa team-mate Gareth Barry has become the mainstay of the England midfield ahead of Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

And he praised the 27-year-old for never giving up hope of being an international star even when frozen out for four years by Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Petrov told PA Sport: "Other players who are trying to break into the English national team should learn from Gareth. He was fighting with two of the best midfield players in the world in Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, and now you can say Gareth is the main guy in the England midfield."

Barry has been an England regular for the past 12 months after initially being given his chance to shine by Steve McClaren - a role he has continued in during the Fabio Capello era.

Now he will come face to face with one of his main rivals, Frank Lampard, on Sunday before the pair join up for the latest batch of World Cup qualifiers after the weekend.

Petrov added: "It's hard to get there but even harder to keep your place. He's had to wait his turn but now he's determined to keep his place.

"He missed international football for quite a long time but now he has come back, he has come back stronger, come back with more confidence. Now he looks like he's never been out of the England squad. He's playing well and pulling strings there and I think he has a lot of respect."

Petrov admits he feels at ease playing alongside Barry, who has been in outstanding form since failing to obtain his summer move to Liverpool.

The Bulgarian international said: "It's not hard to get a good partnership going with Gareth because he's a world-class player and he knows how to play football.

"We're all just so happy Gareth is still in our team and not in someone else's team. It gave us a massive lift when he remained here. It shows the club are thinking in the right direction. They want to keep their best players and improve as a team and give the fans good success."

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Topics:
Internationals
Football
Stiliyan Petrov
Gareth Barry
Chelsea
Steven Gerrard
Aston Villa
Liverpool