At the start of the season you'd have got very long odds on Manchester United's trip to Leicester City on Saturday being a top-of-the-table clash, but that's how it has turned out. Claudio Ranieri's Foxes continue to exceed all expectations at the summit of the Premier League, and are a point clear of the Reds heading into this weekend's meeting at the King Power Stadium.
Their achievement is made all the more impressive by the manner in which they've achieved it: Ranieri has invariably set his side out to attack, and though they've conceded over twice as many goals as United, they've scored on average over twice a match. Spearheaded by the prolific late bloomer Jamie Vardy, they clearly have to be treated as a very good team.
United have the lion's share of injury problems heading into this fixture, with Louis van Gaal still without at least three players in Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick; meanwhile, Phil Jones and Ander Herrera are both doubtful. Van Gaal may well elect to bring Juan Mata into the first team for one of Memphis Depay or Jesse Lingard, while Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian are all scrapping for one of the two spots at full-back.
Leicester's only certain absentee is former United trainee Matty James, who was at the club for five years before leaving in 2012.
Take note, Louis van Gaal: the key to Leicester's success this season has been pace. Not only do they have fast players, but they move the ball around quickly, too. That isn't to say they're always direct, but the pace of their passing and the intelligence of their movement allows them to split opposition defences. Jamie Vardy in particular thrives on space in behind opponents, and many of his goals have been when he's burst through one-on-one.
However, he's not the only dangerman. Whoever starts at left-back for United will be up against one of the Premier League's best wingers in Riyad Mahrez, with the young Algerian having arguably been as valuable to Leicester's all-round game as Vardy so far this season. He's scored seven goals and chipped in with six assists -- only Arsenal's invisible playmaker Mesut Özil can better that figure.
With United likely to see more of the ball, the task is going to be whether they can break down a very well-organised team. Leicester can very quickly retreat into a disciplined two banks of four, with central midfielders N'Golo Kanté and Danny Drinkwater both naturally quite defensively-minded. Given United's absolutely hopeless attacking of late (seemingly with the exception of the promising 4-4-2 van Gaal tried for a few minutes against Watford), there's little reason to believe they'll succeed.
If United are going to win this match, it'll likely be the result of a stroke of luck in attack, and making sure they find a way to stop Leicester slicing through on the counter-attack.
Leicester City (4-4-2): Kasper Schmeichel; Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth, Wes Morgan, Danny Simpson; Marc Albrighton, N'Golo Kanté, Danny Drinkwater, Riyad Mahrez; Jamie Vardy, Leonardo Ulloa.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young; Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata; Anthony Martial.