NB1 – round 30 preview

Hold on to your hats people! The NB1 finish line comes into view this week and the races at both ends of the table are equally intriguing. Videoton and Honvéd are neck and neck at the final turn with Vasas and Ferencváros a length behind. At the bottom, Gyirmót limped off the track some time ago but no less than six teams are in danger of relegation with just four games to go. Read on for a full preview of all the matches.

Debrecen (11th) vs Újpest (6th)
at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Debrecen are in uncharted waters at the moment. Leonel Pontes’ team has managed to stay out of the relegation zone all season but this week they head into their match with Újpest level on points with Diósgyor, but just under the line due to having less victories. They battled hard against Videoton but were second-best on the day in a 3-2 defeat at Pancho Aréna last week.
Loki have done much better at home recently as they’ve only lost once in their last six games at Nagyerdei Stadion. Both Norbert Könyves and Haris Handzic have scored in each of their last two matches, while Dávid Holman’s performances seem to be improving as well. Leading goal scorer, Holman, scored his first two goals of the spring season a fortnight ago and was as industrious against Vidi last week even though he didn’t find the net.
Újpest’s frustrating up-and-down season continued with a 2-1 home defeat against MTK at Szuzsa Ferenc. Since the restoration of their home stadium, Lilák have collected just 3 points in five matches with no wins. Their last ‘home’ win was ironically against Debrecen when they played in Kecskemét in December. They won 2-0 on the day but now travel to Debrecen where they haven’t defeated Loki since 2013. Manager Nebojsa Vignjevic has been without a true striker for most of the season and has had to rely on his midfield (and sometimes his defenders) to pick up the scoring duties. Attacking midfielder Enis Bardhi leads the team with 11 goals, four more than the rest of Lilák’s centre forwards combined.
Last week’s late defeat against MTK has Újpest closer to the relegation line than to the top four for the first all season. A win here is paramount or they risk slipping into the relegation morass.

Prediction: Debrecen 2-2 Újpest
Újpest will be bolstered playing against a team that has conceded 13 goals in their last 7 games, and they have played better away from home this season, but Debrecen have been tough at home recently and their forwards are on target with 6 goals scored in their last two games. It will be tough to separate these two.

Current form:
Debrecen – LWDLWW
Újpest – LWDWDL

Gyirmót (12th) vs Diósgyor (10th)
at Alcufer Stadion, Gyirmót

After a string of encouraging results just after the winter break there might have been some hope that Gyirmót were turning things around, but recent results have now confirmed their drop into NB2 next season. They fought bravely against both Ferencváros and Honvéd in recent weeks but came up just short. They were held goalless at Honvéd last week but it was just their second time in their last nine matches they failed to score which is a huge improvement over their early season production (or lack thereof).
Diósgyor are truly a different team with Tamás Bódog at the helm. Four wins in their last six with just one defeat has breathed new life into a team that looked doomed to the drop in March. With their noses above water for the first time since late February, DVTK are looking up rather than behind. They’re playing with a confidence they haven’t seen all season and are coming off of impressive back-to-back victories. They are they only team to have broken through Paksi’s gates and steal all 3 points this season, and they followed that up with a solid win over title-chasers Vasas last week, scoring the winner with only ten men. Their skipper Zoltán Lipták will miss the rest of the season for his conduct after being shown a straight red card in their last game. The veteran centre back has been a big part of their solid defense in recent weeks as they’ve conceded just four goals in their last six games. Even so, Bódog has wisely set his attackers free instead of sitting behind the ball. Diósgyor have scored nine goals in their last 6 games which has been a huge improvement for a team that scored just 7 goals between early November and late March.

Prediction: Gyirmót 1-2 Diósgyor
Bódog won his first away match in three against Paks but it was a big one. They are coming into this game with a lot of confidence and still much to play for. Gyirmót are looking to the future and will fight bravely but should fall here. Look for DVTK’s Roland Ugrai to get back on the score sheet.

Current form:
Gyirmót – LLDLLW
Diósgyor – WWLWDW

Mezőkövesd (8th) vs Honvéd (1st)
at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Mezőkövesd’s recent form has to be concerning as they were the promoted team that looked most likely to stay up, but now they find themselves in a desperate situation. Consecutive 3-1 defeats against Újpest and Ferencváros have them just one point clear of the drop zone and Tomislav Sivic looks out of answers for his team. For a team that was a defensive juggernaut before the winter break, they have fallen to pieces allowing as many goals in their last 10 games (22) than they did in their first 19. Sivic has been unable to pick up where his predecessor Attila Pintér left off.
Honvéd have been a bit of a mystery, truth be told. They are leading the league and have been very efficient in their last stretch of games, but they haven’t blown anyone out of the water. In a few of their recent victories they’ve looked just as much like losing than winning at times. Davide Lanzafame’s dramatic, late winner last week game them a deserved 3 points but the game should have been sewn up before that. In their last five matches they have either won with a clean sheet or been held goalless in defeat. They are getting timely goals and played some very good defense at times but their results seem to teeter on a knife’s edge.

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 0-2 Honvéd
Surprisingly this is a difficult one to pick. Honvéd are in good form at home, but they’ve lost their last two away games without scoring a goal and that’s something that will need addressing. I think Mezőkövesd are floundering at the moment and they won 3-1 in their last game against Honvéd.  Even so, that was when Pintér was leading the team and their mindset is nowhere near where it was back in September.  Mezo will turn over if Kispest can get an early goal. This is an important one for Honvéd and I’m backing Márton Eppel to have a good game here.

Current form:
Mezőkövesd – LLDWLL
Honvéd – WLWLWW

Vasas (3rd) vs Paks (7th)
at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest

After defeating Ferencváros and Honvéd in recent weeks to crawl back in to the title race, Vasas’ aspirations for their first title since 1977 were dealt a blow with a narrow defeat against Diósgyor last week. Michael Oenning’s side have proven their worth with victories against the major players at the top of the table, but defeats against Debrecen, Újpest and Haladás have kept their charge to the top in check. Defender Felix Burmeister has scored their last two goals which is worrisome. They are missing the dangerous presence of Martin Ádám who has been out with an injury sustained in their 3-2 defeat against Újpest. Oenning will need someone to lead the line Ádám’s return is unknown.
Paks are a team that were grabbing headlines at the start of the spring season. An 8-game run without defeat had turned a lot of heads, but they’ve hit the skids in recent weeks with three defeats on the trot. What’s even more concerning is their lack of goals. Paks have gone three matches without finding the target for the first time all season. Aurél Csertoi hasn’t changed much in his lineup, but it’s possible his tactics are now working against him as teams have been able to break down the keys to his success. That remains to be seen.

Prediction: Vasas 1-0 Paks
After conceding 3 goals at home against Újpest, Vasas have kept a clean sheet in their last two home games including their first leg win over Mezőkövesd in the Magyar Kupa semifinal. Paks will need to show more in attack or risk being overcome by the wave of improving teams below them.

Current form:
Vasas – LWWLWL

Videoton (2nd) vs Haladás (5th)
at Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Henning Berg welcomed back Dank Lazovic with open arms last week. The Super-Serb had missed the last three games due to suspension, and even though he didn’t score a goal he was the catalyst behind Videoton’s 3 goal effort against Debrecen. Vidi hadn’t scored more than a goal in five games, but a rested Lazovic did the trick as he was at the heart of their best moves. Videoton are level with Honvéd on points but sit in second due to their one less victory in the league.
Haladás took advantage of Paks’ poor form to win their second in three weeks to stay out of the vortex of relegation battlers and inch toward a top four spot. They responded from their worst defensive effort of the season against Debrecen to notch their third clean sheet in their last four games. Haladás are another team that are unpredictable as they haven’t followed any sort of formula all season. It’s fitting that they’re so close to the top four though. They have picked up points were they should and have poached an upset or two along the way. They won twice against Vasas and beat Fradi as well so far this season – not bad for a mid-table team. David Williams is their in-form attacker at the moment and he was unlucky not to score in his third consecutive game last week.

Prediction: Videoton 3-1 Haladás
No one scores more goals than Videoton at home, and if Haladás’ recent away form is anything to go by then they could be in for a long day. Haladás lost 3-0 earlier at Pancho Aréna and this could be a similar scoreline.

Current form:
Videoton – WDDWLD
Haladás – LDWLWW

MTK Budapest (9th) vs Ferencváros (4th)
at Groupama Aréna, Budapest

Ádám Hrepka’s late winner over Újpest last week gave MTK three more vital points to keep them from dropping into the danger zone. It’s a right mess at the bottom with Gyirmót already relegated and four other teams separated by just one point in the fight to escape relegation. MTK will be fighting tooth and nail to create more space between themselves and the line but they face a big test against the reining champions on Saturday.
Ferencváros have not lived up to very high expectations this season but they have won two on the trot and have one foot in the Magyar Kupa final. They seem to have played without pressure the last couple of weeks as they may have conceded the league and are concentrating on the cup. After going four games without a win, Fradi have defeated Gyirmót and Mezőkövesd in recent weeks. Veteran Zoltán Gera has picked up his production with four goals in his last two games and has been the inspiration for a team that has lacked identity and cohesiveness this season.

Prediction: MTK Budapest 1-1 Ferencváros
Ferencváros have been poor away from home this season. They have a -3 goal differential and have only scored 15 goals in 14 games away from Groupama Aréna this season. MTK have already defeated Fradi at home this season and drew 1-1 against them away. These are the kinds of games that have killed off Thomas Doll’s chances of a repeat and I think they’ll struggle here again.

Current Form:
MTK Budapest – WDDDWL
Ferencváros – WWLLDL