Sainsbury is expected to report its sixth consecutive quarter of growth next week, with the City predicting market-leading like-for-like sales up at least 5%.

The chain experienced its first growth-on-growth since chief executive Justin King took over during its last quarter, with sales up 5.3%. However, analysts were not particularly upbeat about its progress and said Sainsbury was still only reporting against relatively easy comparative figures.

Darren Shirley, analyst at Shore Capital, said he expected a like-for-like figure of about 5.5% but that the real test for King would come in the run-up to Christmas. "It will get tougher in the final quarter," he said. "Justin King had some quick wins initially, but the biggest challenge is turning sales growth into profit growth - he's been on a bit of a profits holiday."

At its annual results last month, King indicated that Christmas could mark a turning point for the chain.

Sanjay Vidyarthi at Teather & Greenwood added that King was still doing a good job but asked how long Sainsbury's boss could continue growing sales without growing profits.

"We're still waiting for an earnings upgrade, but I'm not sure how easy it will be to do when you've got Asda particularly attacking on price," he said.