NBI Football is Back!

 

After more than three months away, NBI starts up again this afternoon with Pecs vs MTK followed by Egri vs DVTK. Tomasz Mortimer guides you through the things to look out for in the second half of the season. For a report on all the winter transfers, click here.

 

Who will be challenging for the title?

Gyor currently stand six points clear at the top of the table with surprise package, MTK the challengers. Gyor have been in scintillating form this season under the tutelage of Attila Pinter – in charge for the second time – and their style of football has been lauded by the Hungarian press. The attacking talent they posses is unparalleled within the league and the re-signing of Tarmo Kink will only strengthen their offensive force. Last season they were title contenders until they slipped away shortly after the winter break, and Attila Pinter will have to make sure they don’t make the same mistake again to claim the NB1 title that has eluded them for 30 years.

MTK have performed well above initial expectations this season and sit in second position after 17 games. Hungary’s second most successful side were unexpectedly relegated back in 2011 but bounced back at the first time of asking last year, and even though they were predicted to be in the top half this season, they are exceeding everyone’s expectations. Their captain, Jozsef Kanta has been in superb form pulling the strings along with Norbert Csiki who is attracting interest across the continent in his first season in Hungary’s top flight. A title push is probably beyond them, and they already seemed to be dropping off a bit late last year after their blistering start, but a top four finish would be a great achievement.

Debrecen haven’t quite looked the same this season after last year’s unbeaten title success. A relatively decent start  has been marred by a run of five defeats in their last six league games of the season, which left manager Elemer Kondas hanging onto his job by a thread. The departure of their starlet, Jozsef Varga in January will hurt the 2012 champions hard and any realistic title challenge looks out of sight with a ten point gap between them and Gyor. The Debrecen machine may need to be well oiled to get it motoring again.

Videoton will be looking to push on into the top two places this year under the new leadership of manager Jose Gomes after Paulo Sousa’s resignation in December. Vidi’s team possesses so much quality and experience that it’s hard to rule them out of the title race even though they’re 12 points adrift of the top with just 13 games remaining. If they are to mount any sort of title challenge, players like Istvan Kovacs, Nemanja Nikolic and Filipe Oliveira need to do it on a more consistent basis. Their exit from the Europa League should help them, but it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to adapt to the new manager’s approach.

 

Who’s likely to heading for NBII?

It’s quite a simple answer this one with Siofok and Egri sitting 10 and 8 points, respectively, off safety. Siofok have been the worst by far, though – losing 10 of their first 13 games, and not picking up a win until week 14. The club from Lake Balaton have been constant relegation candidates in the past few season’s, but have always exceeded expectations with impressive results with a less than impressive squad, and tight budget (NBI’s very own Wigan). But this season seems like a step too far, and it’s been the goals that they have shipped that have been the worry, but the signing of former Rochdale and West Ham United goalkeeper, Peter Kurucz in September has somewhat stemmed the flow of goals (in his 12 games played he’s conceded 18 compared to conceding 18 in 6 before he joined). The hope for Siofok is that they’ve won two of their last four in the league and have signed former Plymouth defender Krisztian Timar till the end of the season. Safety seems like a push, but they’re used to this sort of scrap. Don’t rule them out yet.

Unfortunately for Egri, things have gone from good to bad. After getting off to a reasonably decent start after their promotion last season, Egri have failed to win in their last 9 league games and have only managed to win two games all season. Former Tom Tomsk striker, Norbert Nemeth has been their standout player this season scoring a superb 8 goals in 15 games which gives a bit of hope to a relatively bleak looking position. After back-to-back promotions, it’s not entirely surprising that they find themselves in such a position, and it would take something extraordinary for them to stay up, but after last season’s incredible promotion from NBII, you can’t put anything past this vibrant club.

Pecs are currently sitting one place above the relegation zone, but being 8 points clear they shouldn’t be too worried at this stage of the season. NBI is so tight at the moment, and the Munkas are only 7 points behind 4th place Videoton. I expect them to be fine, especially seeing as they have one of the best keeper’s in the league in Denes Dibusz.

 

Who are the players to look out for?

DVTK have gone on a spending spree this season and have signed a trio of exciting talents who are all likely to light up the league in the second half of the season. Hungary national team regular, Akos Elek was signed from Videoton in the summer after a fruitless stint in Turkey; Gergely Rudolf was picked up on a free transfer after being released by Serie A side Genoa in the summer; and former Newcastle United defender, Tamas Kadar was signed on loan from Eredivisie club, Roda JC. The three players are definitely more talented than NBI but the three all find themselves at a crossroads in their career, and DVTK have offered them refuge to get their careers back on track. They all need to perform if they are to reach the potential that many expect of them.

Gyor have an extremely talented squad which has great strength in depth. Adam Dudas was expected by many to become a star of Hungarian football, but things haven’t exactly gone to plan for the 24 year old and now only finds himself as a bit part player at Gyor. Roland Varga has been the main highlight. The former Brescia man has scored 9 goals in 17 on his return to Hungary and the signing of former Middlesborough winger, Tarmo Kink will provide the leaders with more firepower. Mate Patkai has been a standout performer this season, earning a call up to the national team. The tenacious midfielder has been in superb form, and a summer move looks to be all but a certainty at this point in time.

Istvan Kovacs is probably the most exciting prospect in NBI at the moment. The 20 year old has been tipped by former boss Paulo Sousa to go onto great things, and his performances this season have only further enhanced his fledging reputation. His centre of gravity is incredible and the skill and ability to drift past a man is incomparable within NBI.

Few more players to keep an eye on: Adam Coulibaly (Debrecen), Daniel Bode (Ferencvaros), Gabor Gyomber (Ferencvaros), Julian Jenner (Ferencvaros), Leonardo (Ferencvaros), Tamas Koltai (Gyor),  Adam Simon (Haladas), Norbert Csiki (MTK), Peter Kabat (Ujpest), Nemanja Nikolics (Videoton).