LONDON: Stiliyan Petrov says he is taking inspiration from Fabrice Muamba in his fight with acute leukaemia.

The 32-year-old Aston Villa midfielder and captain begins treatment in London tomorrow but watched Villa’s 4-2 home defeat by Chelsea on Saturday.

Bolton’s Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham a fortnight ago but is making a steady – and remarkable – recovery at the London Chest Hospital.

Petrov said that a picture of Muamba sitting up in bed on Friday had inspired him, along with numerous well-wishes, to fight for his health.

He added: “I would like to thank all of the people who have left messages of support. The response has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much.

“This is a difficult time for my family and myself and . . . with the help and love of my family, my team-mates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa and all of the fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this.

“I saw the picture released by Fabrice Muamba, my fellow player, and it has inspired me as has all of the support I have received.”

Those messages of support included one from Rangers manager Ally McCoist to the former player of Old Firm rivals Celtic.

In the warm-up for Saturday’s match Villa’s players wore shirts reading: ‘Support Stan’ [his nickname] while the message on the Chelsea shirts read: ‘Our thoughts are with you.’ Villa fans then stood and applauded during the 19th minute of the match, in reference to the fact Petrov wears the No19 shirt.

Manager Alex McLeish said: “He came into the dressingroom and shook everyone’s hands and the boys were not sure whether to cry or hug him.”

The illness was diagnosed following tests after Petrov had complained of suffering with a fever following the previous week’s 3:0 defeat at Arsenal.