Most had expected FC Ingolstadt and SV Darmstadt 98 to be lurking near the wrong end of the table ahead of the sides' clash on Matchday 13. Instead, the promoted duo, who face off on Sunday afternoon at the Audi Sportpark, can look back on an expectation-defying start to the 2015/16 campaign.
Both have shocked some of the Bundesliga's high-profile names with combative and determined football and the proof is in the pudding (or rather, the league table): with just over a third of the season done and dusted, Ingolstadt sit a solid tenth, while Darmstadt in 13th are a full six points clear of the automatic relegation places.
So can the new kids on the block keep the momentum up for the rest of the season?
After back-to-back promotions saw an astonishing rise from the third tier to the Bundesliga, Darmstadt had been written off even before they started the season, dismissed as the biggest underdog to arrive in the top flight for decades.
The Lilies made a mockery of that moniker quickly enough, however, going unbeaten in their opening four games. As well as victories over Bayer 04 Leverkusen and SV Werder Bremen, they can since look back on a thrilling draw with Borussia Dortmund as proof of a fearless entry into life in the big time.
Their success has come largely from a rigorously organised defence. Built around captain Aytac Sulu, Darmstadt's backline has been one of Germany most miserly - and most feared. Indeed, only reigning champions and Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München have allowed their opponents fewer clear-cut chances so far in 2015/16.
That solidity has been helped by the quick integration of newcomers such as Luca Caldirola, Peter Niemeyer and Konstantin Rausch.The versatile left-sider Rausch has been particularly useful, offering his side an extra weapon on the break as they perpetually look to free up and use the speed of Marcel Heller, who already has five goals to his name.
Darmstadt's biggest weapon, however, has been set-pieces. A total of 54 shots on goal this season have resulted from dead-ball situations, most memorably Sulu's late equaliser against Dortmund. Coach Dirk Schuster's approach is simple: defend effectively, and then smash and grab.
Second-best defence in the league
The situation is remarkably similar at Ingolstadt. Ralph Hasenhüttl promised before the season that his team would attempt to irritate and frustrate the Bundesliga big boys, and they have not disappointed. With only nine goals conceded – a full eight below the league average at this point – Die Schanzer's defensive record is second only to Bayern.
As with Sunday's opponents, the concrete defence is built around their captain. Marvin Matip has missed only 45 minutes of his team's Bundesliga campaign this season, ever ready to marshal his uncompromising back line.
Their defensive efficiency has helped Ingolstadt enormously. Despite notching up 16 points, they have scored only seven goals, the least prolific team in the league. New signings in attack such as Elias Kachunga have failed to have much of an impact thus far, but FCI's aggressive pressing and rock-solid defending have allowed them to keep climbing the table regardless.
Who will blink first?
With two such resilient defences, the big question ahead of Sunday's game can only be: who will blink first? One of the two sides will surely have to take the initiative. Ingolstadt's attacking record has been particularly poor at the Audi Sportpark, with only two goals on home turf so far in their debut top-flight campaign. On the ball, though, they are arguably technically superior to Schuster's visitors. The clash of the new kids on the Bundesliga block is not just an unexpected jostling for position in mid-table: it may also be the first indication of whether either of these teams has an effective plan B.