With the halfway point of the season fast approaching, it is beginning to become clear which sides will be battling it out for glory in Europe's respective leagues this season. Of course, the usual suspects are all in the proximity of the title race, even if some, such as Real Madrid and Juventus, aren't quite where they might have wished to be.
However, as is always the case, there are a number of clubs who have made surprising progress this season.
Often these are teams who were tipped for mediocrity or perhaps even a long and gruelling relegation battle. Almost invariably, they were teams that little was really expected of at the start of the season.
Here are five of the most surprising sides around Europe's top leagues who are fighting it out at the top end of the table:
Exactly a year ago, Valencia found themselves in grave danger of being relegated from La Liga. They sat 17th in the standings, only out of the relegation zone by virtue of their superior goal difference to Sporting Gijon.
They ultimately pulled themselves away from trouble, finish 15 points clear of the drop zone thanks to a strong conclusion to the season, yet no-one predicted the explosive form they would display at the start of this term.
With only 14 matches played in La Liga, they are second in the standings behind only Barcelona, leading clubs such as Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, who have both enjoyed title success in recent years. They have lost only one game and have scored a staggering 33 times.
Perhaps what is most impressive about Valencia’s surge is that Marcelino has led the charge without dramatically changing the squad. Less than €40 million was spent in the summer on players, but those men who have come in have shone.
It has been the use of the loan market that has been particularly effective, with Andreas Pereira shining after arriving on a temporary deal from Manchester United. Inter man Geoffrey Kondogbia has rediscovered his best level after a wretched spell in Italy and PSG attacker Goncalo Guedes has been perhaps their most outstanding player.
After drawing with Barcelona last week, the big question is: can they keep this level up?