OTP Bank Liga is Back! – Hungarian NBI Preview

 

After less than two months away, Hungarian football is back this Friday with last season’s final day survivors Lombard Pápa taking on the newly promoted Puskás Academy.

With all the Hungarian sides out of European competition already, thank god NBI is back.

The new NBI season is tipped to be the tightest and most unpredictable one for a very long time with at least four sides genuinely in with a chance of challenging for the title. HungarianFootball.com takes you through the sides in NBI, who will be near the top, the sides scrapping down the bottom, and the players to look out for.

[h5]Who are the newcomers?[/h5]

Formely Videoton’s second team, Puskás Academy have made significant improvements since going solo last summer, and stormed to the NBII West title last season racking up 70 points in 30 games. They’ve been able to hang on to a few of the players from the Videoton days including Norbert Farkas, Dénes Szakály and Attila Polonkai – three hugely influential players – and have also brought some great players through the ranks such as László Kleinheiser and Tibor Molnár. Unfortunately, Kleinheiser has left for Videoton, and he will be sorely missed by the Felcsut based side, but with good additions such as Patrik Tischler from MTK Budapest, you expect this young, talented, vibrant side to finish in a comfortable mid-table position.

Mezőkövesd-Zsóry were worthy winners of the NBII East last season, and eventually won the league by 3 points ahead of recently relegated Vasas. Founded in 1975, Mezo have never found themselves in the top tier of Hungarian football, and in 2009 were in the third division. The story seems a bit like Egri FC’s venture into NBI last season, but Zsóry have already made significant improvements to their squad. Adam Balajti has joined on loan from Debrcen, they’ve brought Siófok’s top scorer in from last season Vilmos Melczer and they’ve also signed Zoltan Burany from Haladás. Those three additions already coupled with a pretty strong squad, should see them at least be competitive unlike Egri FC last season, but I think they can do more than that and I won’t be surprised if they stave off relegation.

[h5]Who will be challenging?[/h5]

After Győr’s first title win in 30 years last season, they will undoubtedly be near the top again this year. Their squad has been built on with a couple of really strong additions including the former Parma striker, Leandro Martinez. Martinez was on loan at Budapest Honvéd last season and managed to score an impressive 6 goals in 11 games in NBI which brought about his move to the champions. However, Győr crashed out of the Champions League in the second qualifying round to Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, and their quick tempo, that was a hallmark of their success last season, was sluggish and off-key. It’ll be interesting to see how they pick themselves up after their early failure in Europe.

Videoton finished second last season, but were the ‘Spring Champions’ winning 9 of their 13 games in the league in 2013 under the newly appointed Jose Gomes who took over from Paulo Sousa in December. Impressive performances from Paraiba and the ever fledging István Kovács made Vidi the most exciting side in NBI last season, but they lacked a striker last season, and have failed to add one to their ranks despite being linked with a number of name’s. You expect them to be near the top again this year, but goals might be hard to come by, even with such a talented squad.

Debrecen had a horrible season last year losing 12 games in the league, just one season after going to whole league campaign unbeaten. Loki fans see last season as a fluke but it has prompted question marks over Elemer Kondas’s qualities as a coach, and the strength of their aging squad. Their best two players, Jozsef Varga and Adamo Coulibaly, have left the club this summer, with the latter being almost an impossible player to replace after scoring 18 goals in the league last season. Debrecen did win the Magyar Kupa last term, but were dumped out of Europe easily by Stromgodset last night, and I think it will be a ‘fluke’ if Debrecen are to win the title this year.

Ferencváros may be seen as outsiders to some, but for the Fradi faithful they will be seen as favourites. The 28-year-time league winners had a fantastic end to last season, and have strengthened their squad significantly this summer in all areas of the pitch. Fradi played a good brand of football under Ricardo Moniz last term, who joined the club in August 2012, and with a good, stable pre-season under their belt you expect the biggest club in Hungary to be there or there about come next May.

Honvéd, Honvéd, Honvéd. Another side who had a cracking end to last season, but were expected to be nowhere near the top 4 at the start of the year. The Italian Marco Rossi has done a fantastic job at the Budapest side, strengthening the squad in key areas with an influx of his fellow countrymen adding quality to the side. Roberto Mancini’s son, Andrea has arrived from Manchester City as has young Emanuele Testardi from Sampdoria replacing the departing Leandro Martinez and Davide Lanzafame who were both very impressive in their six months in Hungary. Kispest also have some really good young players coming through the ranks too, and just like last season, will be an exciting side to watch. A challenge for the title might be a bit too far, but they’re moving in the right direction.

[h5]Who will be near the bottom?[/h5]

You have to expect last season’s struggler’s Lombard Pápa to be near the bottom again this season. After surviving last term thanks to Siófok failing to beat Újpest on the final day of the season, Pápa were dealt a reprieve and even though they have 3 talented front men in Georges Griffiths, Goran Maric and Alexander Quintero, they were never able to properly click. The experienced Bálint Tóth was appointed in May to steady the ship, but things aren’t looking good for Papa who have done poorly in transfer window so far.

Pécs and Kaposvár finished 12 points above the relegation zone last season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of their performance level. Both sides struggled for goals scoring 33 and 35 respectively in the league, and you expect that to be the same again this season. Pécs have thankfully been able to hold on to their star keeper Dénes Dibusz who looked set to leave, but Kaposvár haven’t been able to hold on to their’s, Lubos Hajduch, who’s signed for newly promoted Puskás FC. After the backbone of Kapi’s success last season being their strong defence and goalkeeper, that could be the difference this season.

The two newly promoted sides are always expected to struggle in their first season in NBI, so don’t be surprised if they’re both near the bottom. The quality level between NBI and NBII is quite significant which makes it hard for promoted sides to flourish in the top tier. Egri FC found it too hard to cope last season, finishing a distant 13 points from safety, but both sides do have quality within their squad, and if they get off to a good start, should be okay.

Diósgyőr will be looking to build on their poor outing last term. Their talented squad which includes current Hungarian internationals such as Ákos Elek, Gergely Rudolf and Tamás Kádár should really be pushing for a title challenge but you don’t expect it after last season’s inconsistency. Paks have built on their squad through the summer, but have lost their manager Tomislav Sivić to Diósgyőr, so it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if they’re near the bottom next season, but I expect them to be fine. Kecskemét had a great end to the end of last season, but I think anything other than mid-table mediocrity would be seen as a surprise. The same thing goes with Haladás, MTK Budapest and Újpest.

[h5]Hungarian Players to Look Out For[/h5]

The one man I’m looking forward to seeing is my current favourite player, István Kovács, the darling of NBI. Videoton’s short attacking midfielder was unplayable in the 2nd half of last season, and was tearing defences to shreds. He has a really low centre of gravity which allows him to sway from side to side like a skier, and beat men for fun. One criticism of him at the start of last season was his final ball, but that has improved massively in the second half of the year. Just 21, Paulo Sousa called him the most exciting prospect to come from Hungary in years. He’ll sure to be one to look out for this season.

András Radó was brilliant for Haladás last season. His ability reminds me a little bit of that of Istvan Kovacs, who also came through the Szombathely academy. Rado netted 7 goals from midfield last season for Hali, and at just 19, massive things are expected of the youngster. He also turned down a move from Újpest in the summer, which is great news for Haladás fans (like me).

Gergely Rudolf never got into his stride at Diósgyőr last season, but now with a good pre-season under his belt, you expect the former Genoa man to be lighting up NBI from now on. Rudolf was one of Hungary’s best performers in the recent European Championship qualifiers, but after failing to make it Genoa and Panathinaikos, Rudolf was forced to come home to re-find his feet. A big season is needed from Rudolf if he is to make it in European football again.

Richárd Guzmics has been one of NBI’s better defenders over the last few seasons, and that has lead to recent call-up’s to the national team where he performed admirably against a strong Turkish side. Another from product of the Szombathely academy, Guzmics is expected to leave Haladás in the not too distant future to further his career. Big things expected of the 26-year-old.

Special mentions to: Roland Szolnoki (21-year-old full back for Videoton), Daniel Böde (26-year-old striker for Ferencváros),
József Kanta (29-year-old midfielder for MTK Budapest), Roland Juhász (30-year-old defender for Videoton) and Roland Varga (23-year-old striker for Győr).