Mark Hughes is considering sticking with three at the back for the visit of Chelsea.

Hughes opted to make the move from a 4-4-2 to playing with three centre halves again for the Carabao Cup game at Everton on Tuesday, which Saints won on penalties.

The Saints boss used the formation successfully to help the club stay in the Premier League last season and worked on it still further in pre-season.

It was ditched after a poor start in the opener against Burnley but, after recent defensive issues, Hughes admitted it was back on the table as a serious option for Sunday’s game at St Mary’s.

He said: “We revisited that (the formation).

“It served us well toward the back end of last year when we just needed to get maybe a better foothold in games.

“I think we played well and ok for the most part in our games, but maybe on occasions we have been a little bit loose in the defensive third, but I thought we looked nice and solid.

“It’s food for thought and that’s what I wanted.”

A major positive for Saints heading into the match is the form of Danny Ings.

He netted at Goodison Park for the second time this season to bring his tally to four goals already.

“He’s making a huge impact,” admitted Hughes.

“He’s got that knack of being in the right place at the right time.

“When everything is flying around in the box he’s got that knack that all goalscorers have of understanding what’s required to dispatch chances and get on the scoresheet.

“He’s not where he needs to be yet and there’s still more to come in terms of his fitness and what he can bring but he started off really well, everybody’s delighted with what he’s producing and he will get better as well we feel.”

Another player who impressed against Everton was Angus Gunn, who saved a penalty in the shootout and made a few good stops during the game.

Though he is likely to have to take his place on the bench again for Chelsea with Alex McCarthy returning to the team, there are plenty of encouraging signs.

“He’s an outstanding young goalkeeper,” reflected Hughes.

“We had the opportunity to bring him to the club and we had to move quickly because there was a lot of interest in him, and rightly so.

“He made the choice that he felt his future was going to be with us and we’re delighted.

“He hasn’t been with us that long but I’ve been able to give him a couple of games now and in each of the games he’s been part of he’s given us the calmness and assurance you need from your goalkeeper and it belies his age.

“It’s encouraging for him and for us because we’ve got an outstanding young keeper.”