Birmingham City are sweating on the fitness of captain Kenny Cunningham only 12 days before the start of the Premiership season.

The experienced Republic of Ireland defender was substituted at half time in Saturday's 2-1 friendly defeat to Queens Park Rangers. He is expected to undergo a scan today on a suspected broken rib.

Emile Heskey lasted only ten minutes longer at Loftus Road before limping off with a knee injury as Blues went down 2-1. But manager Steve Bruce, who expects to complete the signing of striker Walter Pandiani this week, is hopeful that neither injury will prove a major problem.

"Kenny's picked up an injury to his ribs," Bruce said. "It's likely that he'll need to have an x-ray but, even if they are broken, hopefully he'll be back for the start of the season.

"Emile has a twisted knee but we don't think it's too serious. He should be fine.

"I hate friendlies," the Blues boss added. "I hated them as a player and I still hate them as a manager and I'm just looking forward to the season proper starting.

"But the one real positive I took out of the game was that Muzzy Izzet played a full 90 minutes for us.

"That means that, with the exception of David Dunn and Damien Johnson who is due to miss three games because of a suspension anyway, we should have a fully-fit squad for the start of the season.

"With Walter Pandiani flying in next week, hopefully we'll have some positive news then. It's been dragging on for such a long time that it's possibly the longest transfer ever."

Bruce has also hinted that he might still be in the market for a midfield player - especially given Southampton's reported interest in Darren Anderton.

Jermaine Pennant scored Blues' goal at Loftus Road with a last-minute penalty after second-half strikes from old warhorses Kevin Gallen and Blues old boy Paul Furlong.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa will find out today just what are their chances of signing Liverpool striker Milan Baros.

German club Schalke have publicly claimed to have agreed personal terms with the Czech international striker but the ace Villa have up their sleeve is that, having already had one £5 million bid rejected, they appear a lot closer than the Germans to matching Liverpool ' s £7 million valuation of the player.

On that basis, they are still in the ball game for Baros.

One player who Villa might have to do without for the start of the season is Lee Hendrie.

The combative midfielder was sent off while playing for a strong reserve team at his father's old club Tamworth yesterday.

Hendrie saw red five minutes from time along with Tamworth substitute Kyle Storer after an unsavoury brawl that involved all 22 players. He must await the referee's report before discovering whether he will be landed in hot water, as the repercussions of red cards received in pre-season friendlies tend to depend on the discretion of the FA.

Villa's first team coach Roy Aitken said the club thought Hendrie had been dealt with harshly.

He added: "We will be considering an appeal after we have had a chance to review the situation in the morning."

Following the previous day's 2-1 defeat to Wolves at Molineux, yesterday's 2-2 draw against their non-League neighbours completed a bad weekend on the field for Villa.

Steve Davis opened the scoring after only 30 seconds. But, after two Aaron Brown goals in quick succession just before half time, it took a late equaliser by substitute Gabriel Agbonlahor to restore parity.

West Bromwich Albion ended a run of four successive friendly defeats with a 2-0 victory over Dave Jones' Cardiff City yesterday afternoon.

After their reverse at Crewe and three more defeats on tour in Portugal, goals by Thomas Gaardsoe and Kanu at Ninian Park eased growing concerns over Albion's pre-season form. New Cardiff signings Darren Purse and Jason Koumas turned out against their former team-mates.