Ignazio Abate says critics were far too quick to write off AC Milan when they got off to a slow start to the 2016-17 season.
Milan's home clash against champions and leaders Juventus at San Siro on Saturday has become a contest with Scudetto implications after Vincenzo Montella's men embarked on a fine run of form.
After picking up three points from their first three games, they have collected 13 points from five to sit level on points with second-placed Roma, five adrift of Juve.
Abate is not rushing to proclaim Milan are title contenders, but is cautiously optimistic about their prospects ahead of the meeting with Juve, who defeated them after extra-time in the Coppa Italia final back in May.
"We should not have been dismissed two months ago, just as we should not be considered for the Scudetto now - it needs balance," the defender told Sky Italia.
"Around Christmas we will see the standings and we will see if we have consistently improved. It's early, we think one game at a time and to try to achieve the most possible number of points.
"For now we are second and we will enjoy the moment. I have always believed in this group, there are quality players and with very strong moral principles. There is every reason to do well.
"The coach is right when he says that we need to think positively and with a carefree attitude. It makes for a nice atmosphere.
"Nobody believed in us, but with humility and work we are going forward one step at a time. We do not want to stop.
"The results are there for all to see, although there is a lot of room for improvement.
"We will not be nervous because expectations are not high when you face one of the strongest teams in Europe. Playing in front of a full San Siro will be beautiful.
"Against Juventus we do not win very often, the defeat in the Coppa Italia still hurts because we deserved more. We will face the strongest and will see how far we have come.
"We start as underdogs – let's see what can happen in 90 minutes."
The last time Milan earned 16 or more points from their first eight league matches was in 2010-11, when they went on to win the league.