Bruce to throw Latka in at deep end

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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce has admitted that the Birmingham newcomer Martin Latka faces a daunting baptism against Liverpool, who prepare to welcome home Robbie Fowler for tonight's Premiership game at Anfield.

Latka, a central defender on loan from Slavia Prague for the rest of the season, could be thrust straight into action with Kenny Cunningham and Martin Taylor still injured.

The Czech Republic Under-21 international, who could move to St Andrew's for £1.7m in the summer, is set to partner Matthew Upson against the Reds.

Bruce joked: "It is a nice baptism for him. Martin is big and athletic and is very comfortable on the ball but he is going to have to adapt to a different way of football. That's the big gamble, whether foreign players can adapt straight away to the English conditions.

Latka said: "The Premier League has always appealed and my first goal is to play regularly for Birmingham and do my utmost to help keep them [in the division].

"I was aware of Birmingham's position when they became interested in me but I am sure they can get out of trouble and I want to play my part in achieving that. I think I have the qualities you need. I am good in the air and like to do my job without fuss, but I am also comfortable on the ball."

Bruce is a big admirer of Fowler, who left Manchester City to return Anfield. He said: "If you look at his record it is brilliant. I know he has had a difficult time at Manchester City but even at Leeds his record is quite staggering.

"We all know he is as good a penalty area player as the Premiership has seen. You talk about Andy Cole, Robbie Fowler and Alan Shearer in the same breath.

"He is the prodigal son and maybe Liverpool thought he could give everyone a lift."

Blues did an unlikely double over Liverpool last season and drew 2-2 at St Andrew's this time around. However, Bruce sounded a note of caution. "We played well against them last season as well but I think Liverpool have emerged as a true force again."