Charlie Austin could be set for a return to the Saints side to face Liverpool after rediscovering some of his “spark.”

Saints boss Mark Hughes has striking issues to contend with ahead of tomorrow’s daunting trip to Anfield.

Danny Ings is unavailable as he is on loan from the Reds ahead of his moving being made permanent next summer, while Manolo Gabbiadini is a doubt after pulling up in training yesterday with a hamstring injury.

Austin struggled for form earlier in the season but Hughes has seen enough in training to suggest the forward is getting back to his best.

He said: “During the week leading up to any game you are looking at how people are in training and what their demeanour is and how they are training. Sometimes you can see a little bit of a spark in some players where you sense they are ready to come back into the fold.

“There are a number of players like that and Charlie is included in that group.

“I have watched his work this week and his application and his work around the pitch and he looks in a better place.

“He was struggling for form earlier in the season and going out of the team and maybe coming back is maybe a good option for us.

“We will look at all situations and if I feel it is better we go with certain individuals then what they are doing on the training ground comes into my thinking in terms of who I go with.”

He added: “He’s been a little bit frustrated that when he has played he hasn’t had the impact he’s had in other games.

“When Charlie’s flying and things are happening for him he’s usually getting three or four shots off and making keepers work and maybe early in the season that wasn’t the case.

“Maybe he just needed a little bit more time to get up to speed so we will see.

“He’s a very viable option and one I am seriously considering.”

Ings being unavailable is a blow to Saints.

It will disrupt the recent pattern Saints have developed with Hughes naming an unchanged team for three successive league matches, and if Gabbiadini doesn’t make it that will provide further frustration to the Italian who has yet to start a Premier League game this season.

However, with Shane Long, Austin and Sam Gallagher also in the mix, Hughes feels Saints can cope.

“We have got a lot of different options,” he insisted.

“Obviously you don’t want to lose any of the options you have got in an attacking sense but if he does miss out we can prepare without those two and still be strong.”