Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has joined Louis van Gaal in considering Leicester as genuine Premier League title contenders.
The Foxes sit at the top of the table after a superb start to the season under Claudio Ranieri – with Jamie Vardy leading the drive as the division’s top goalscorer.
They welcome van Gaal’s second-placed Manchester United to the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening looking to recreate their famous 5-3 win over the Red Devils last season.
While Leicester are the team with the most goals to their name, United have shipped just nine to set up an interesting clash in the East Midlands.
And Wenger, whose Arsenal side are the only team to beat Leicester in the league so far this season and also inflicted a 3-0 defeat over United earlier in the campaign, believes Ranieri and his squad are bonafide championship challengers – along with struggling holders Chelsea.
“Of course, you cannot rule them out,” the Frenchman replied when asked if Leicester could win the title.
“Mathematically, you cannot rule Chelsea out. Even the bottom teams are in it. It is so difficult. It is so tight and I don’t even look at the league anymore because it is very, very tight.
“Last week as you said, we had a bad result against West Brom and so did Manchester City (against Liverpool) so it compacted the whole table.”
Wenger will be watching the Leicester game ahead of Arsenal’s flight to Norwich on Saturday as they prepare to take on the Canaries at Carrow Road on Sunday afternoon.
The 66-year-old does not know what to expect but a draw would open up the chance for the Gunners to take over at the summit if they are successful in Norfolk.
“It will be quite interesting because Leicester are a team who have no pressure and they play with no pressure and have quality,” he said.
“It’s a very explosive team, especially on the flanks. When they win the ball, they come out on fire in a very explosive way.
“At the start of the game, Man United will have the possession and Leicester will be the team that can create havoc on the counter-attack. It’s very hard to predict.
“We are in a position where you want to be after 13 games but there are 25 to go. If there’s five or six to go and we are in the race, of course. But at the moment it is too early, I think we have a chance but it is very early. I know people always want to know what will happen in the future but let’s take care of the game on Sunday.”
Wenger could welcome Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back into his ranks for the game at Norwich while Aaron Ramsey will be pushing for a start as both return from respective hamstring injuries.
Arsenal are finally starting to get players out of the treatment room ahead of the busy festive schedule and Wenger also revealed Theo Walcott is close to a comeback after a calf problem.
“Not for Sunday,” he replied when asked if the England forward was ready to return.
“He goes through a few tests and steps but the first one was successful. He started running again on Tuesday morning and had no reaction. He has another big hurdle to get across and hopefully he will be successful.”