THE respective goalscoring records of Watford and Liverpool prior to last weekend might have suggested that today's (Saturday's) televised clash at Vicarage Road would be a tight affair.

The Hornets had scored just nine league goals, the same as the Reds had managed away from Anfield, but three cup ties have put a potentially different complexion on the second encounter between the two clubs in less than a month.

Aidy Boothroyd's side finally found their scoring boots to put four past Stockport - the same as Rafael Benitez's men scored against Arsenal in two ties. But Liverpool's problems are at the other end of the pitch currently after the Gunners responded with nine, and the Watford boss is wary of a possible backlash following the astonishing 6-3 scoreline in the Carling Cup quarter-final.

"Liverpool are an exceptional team at the best of times but they're a wounded animal at the moment," said Boothroyd. "Somebody's going to pay and we've got to make sure it's not us. If it was a difficult game before the Arsenal game, it's a far more difficult game now."

The Hornets manager declined to be drawn into discussing Benitez's decision to rest so many of his big-name players for the quarter-final, which many pundits believe was the reason why they shipped six goals at home for the first time in 70 years.

"I think he's in a great position, he's got some fantastic players and he's not done bad trophy-wise so it's not for me to say anything about him," remarked Boothroyd of his opposite number tomorrow.

While events at Vicarage Road will determine whether the Hornets are playing Liverpool at the right time, Boothroyd knows his side must learn the lessons of their 2-0 pre-Christmas defeat at Anfield.

"I think, as I said at the time, it was two poor goals to concede and we're better than what we showed in terms of our defensive performance," he said. "If we do keep a nice, tight clean sheet then we've always got chances of scoring. We created chances, we just didn't take them."

With Hameur Bouazza set to be sidelined for a "little longer" than originally expected with a dislocated shoulder, Boothroyd's main injury worry for tomorrow's game is Dan Shittu after skipper Gavin Mahon returned to training this week. The centre-half is rated as "50/50", but the manager's main selection issues appear to be up front.

Boothroyd is in the rare position this season of having five strikers to choose from and he said: "Tamas Priskin has stepped up to the plate and done very well. Will Hoskins obviously comes into contention and he's got a lot of goals in the first division. Of course there's Ashley Young and Darius Henderson is still to get off the mark, but statistically sooner rather than later he will, and of course there's the guy that hugs the crowd," he smiled with reference to Moses Ashikodi.

"He'll be in there somewhere in the mix because he's something a little bit different.

"I wouldn't say I've got an embarrassment of riches, but I'm a lot better off than I was at the beginning of last week."