RUIZ SHOCKED BY REDS INTEREST

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LIVERPOOL transfer target Nil Ruiz has admitted that he cannot believe that the Premiership giants are actually interested in signing him.

The 17-year-old Spanish striker, who plays for Segunda Liga side Lleida, is set to go on trial at Anfield for 10 days at the end of the season to give Reds boss Gerard Houllier a chance to cast his eye over the exciting talent.

A number of Spanish clubs are tracking the highly-rated starlet and he is expected to leave Lleida at the end of the season.

"First of all, I thought it was all a joke because I couldn't believe such a big team was poised to sign me," said Ruiz. "Then I talked with my agent and he confirmed the news.

"I don't really like English football because it's based on strength and I am a technical player, not a strong one.

"Of course I like Manchester United and Liverpool as teams because they are big in Europe. I especially admire Owen and Fowler as they are strikers like me and they play very good football."

Meanwhile, The Reds are likely to be without both Nick Barmby and Vladimir Smicer for Tuesday night's vital Premiership clash at Ipswich Town as they battle for a place in the Champions League.

Barmby picked up an ankle injury in the FA Cup semi-final win over Wycombe on Sunday while Smicer missed the game at Villa Park with a hamstring problem sustained against Barcelona last week

Reds boss Gerard Houllier admitted the double injury was a blow to his plans with a busy week of action ahead for his side.

"It's bad news for us because, as well as losing Jari Litmanen, we also think we'll be without Nick Barmby for a couple of weeks," said Houllier. "Unfortunately it's the same ankle injury he's had before this season.

"Vladi picked up a slight hamstring problem in Barcelona and I wouldn't expect him to be back for the Ipswich game."