NB1 round 8 preview

Can you believe we are coming up on the quarter mark of the NB1 season this week? The Hungarian national team has been officially eliminated from FIFA World Cup qualification, and there are no teams left in UEFA competition which leaves just the NB1 (and the Magyar Kupa) to whet our Hungarian football appetites … as if that’s not enough.
As we head into the 8th round the top of the table looks very much as it did toward the end of last season with Videoton and Honvéd battling it out at the top and Ferencváros skulking just outside of the top three. Diósgyor has made an impressive start to the season after a disappointing 2016-17 campaign. Tamás Bódog has his team gunslinging their way to third place at the moment but there are doubts that his current squad can keep up their early momentum. Read on for a complete preview of this week’s games.

Saturday, 9 September

Ferencváros vs Vasas

at Groupama Arena, Budapest

Ferencváros: Thomas Doll’s team suffered their first defeat of the season in round 7 just before the international break in a 3-1 reverse against Videoton in Felcsút. Since then Fradi made two more signings before the end of the transfer window, bringing on journeyman defensive midfielder Stefan Spirovski from Vardar, and centre back Miha Blazic from NK Domžale. They’ve also brought in teenage attacking midfielder Joseph Paintsil on loan from Tema Youth in Ghana.
Doll never seems wanting for resources to bring in players and he’s signed 9 since the start of the transfer window in July. That’s all well and good but, for a team that is stocked with talent year in and year out, the question has to be, “is Doll getting best out of these players?” Ten points from seven games isn’t tragic, but for a team that has brought in talent from across the globe it’s now or never for Ferencváros.
Rui Pedro seems to have taken over for the departed Lazslo Kleinheisler in the middle, and Argentine Fernando Gorriarán looks to be the long-term solution for the aging Zoltan Gera.
Fradi have been boosted by the re-emergence of Roland Varga. The 27 year-old winger has scored 8 goals this season (5 in the league) and is well on course to beat his career-high of 12 league goals, six years ago with Gyor.
Ferencváros had only conceded 4 goals in six games before leaking 3 against Videoton at Pancho Aréna. Videoton’s pace was lethal and it will be interesting to see if Doll’s newest blood can bring some back line stability against the better teams.

Vasas: Michael Oenning’s side will face Ferencváros for the first time since losing in last season’s Magyar Kupa final on penalties. Vasas are level on points with Fradi after seven games, ending a three-match winless run before the break with a 3-1 win at home over Paks. It was the first time they scored more than two goals in a game since early December. Vasas have spread the wealth on attack with no less than seven players finding the back of the net thus far.
Captain Mohamed Remeli limped off at the end of their last game it remains to be seen if he’ll be ready to return against Fradi.

Prediction: Ferencváros 1-1 Vasas
Fradi are unbeaten at home but not untouchable. Both teams have a number of offensive weapons to call upon but I don’t see either team running away with this one. Vasas didn’t lose against Ferencváros in any of their three league meetings last season and defeated them twice at Groupama.

Debrecen vs Diósgyor

at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Debrecen: After going without a win in their first five games scoring just two goals Loki have exploded for seven in their last two – both wins. Their last match was a peach at Bozsik Stadium defeating champions Honvéd 3-1 with captain Dániel Tozsér marshaling a strong midfield. Winger Ádám Bódi signaled his return to Debrecen (albeit on loan from Videoton) with the winning goal in Budapest before the break. Bódi didn’t have the best of times at Videoton last season and is looking to become more of a fixture in András Herczeg’s first team.
Debrecen were quiet as the transfer window shut but they did manage to offload disappointing attacking midfielder Dávid Holman to Slovan Bratislava for a nice fee.

Diósgyor: Tamás Bódog needed a late Roland Ugrai penalty to get out of jail against Mezőkövesd in round 7. Ugrai’s late heroics completed a second half comeback that had to be well-received by the supporters who were used to seeing those points dropped last season.
Miskolc have only lost once this season but they’ve struggled to find their rhythm on attack in their last four outings. After scoring seven goals in their first three games, they’ve only managed five in their last four (2 of which have come in the final minute or later).
Their worst performance was a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Balmazújváros, followed by a 2-2 draw at home against Puskás. Since then they’ve settled a bit. Winger Diego Vela seems to have lost his spark after grabbing four goals in their first five games. He’s been anonymous of late.

Prediction: Debrecen 2-0 Diósgyor
The eastern derby has been dominated by Loki in recent meetings with Debrecen winning the last seven contests outright. They’ve won by at least two goals or more in five of those games. Diósgyor seem much more organized that last season but are still working out some kinks, especially in transition.

Mezőkövesd vs Balmazújváros

at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Mezőkövesd: Mezo’s first seven games have been a microcosm of last season. After a hot start they have picked up just one point in their last five, losing their last two on agonizing injury time goals. Mikulus Radvanyi has seen his club drift down the table since July but not out of lack of effort. They can hold their heads high after playing Honvéd and Diósgyor close in their last two games, but their decline in production will worrisome if it’s not turned around quickly. With no additions in August and no one stepping up to lead the attack, this could be a long autumn for Mezőkövesd.
Horvath will be without left back Gergö Gohér and winger István Csirmaz to injury.

Balmazújváros: After an encouraging start to the season – highlighted by their 4-0 home win over Diósgyor – Ferenc Horváth’s men have lost their last three and already anchor the NB1 table after seven rounds. When they are permitted space Balmaz have an exciting attack with the likes of Nemanja Andric and Ferenc Rácz running free on the flanks, but teams have been quick to bottle the wings lately against the NB1 new boys. They’ve added some strength to their back line with the signing of defender Bence Jagodics from Szeged and he’s sure to challenge regular centre backs László Tamás and Adrián Rus for a starting role in the near future.

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 1-1 Balmazújváros
These two were regular combatants in NBII with Mezőkövesd getting the better of Balmazújváros in seven of their last nine contests (the other two were draws). Horváth’s re-loaded Balmazújváros got the better of Mezo in a friendly this summer which could be an indication of which direction each team is going. Mezo are already fragile defensively and Gohér’s absence won’t make things any easier.

Újpest vs Puskás Akadémia

at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest

Újpest: The good news: Újpest is only one of four NB1 teams to score in every league match so far (and no, Fradi is not on that list). The bad news: Lilák continue to struggle by giving up weak goals and dropping points. Manager Nebojsa Vignjevic is still assembling and organizing a squad that has seen seismic shift in terms of turnover. Even so, he has to be given credit for what he’s done with a team that’s lost their midfield catalyst and have seen fourteen players arrive as the same amount have made their exit. Hopefully, for Vignjevic, the international break will have given him some time to make some adjustments and mold his team together.
Kylian Hazard was one of the players to make an exit as he made a sensational signing at Chelsea to join his brother Eden in London. This was a signing that left many scratching their heads but as Hazard was only a fringe player at Újpest it was probably the best move for both parties.
Also, it seemed as if Lilák were unable to shake off the somewhat annoying presence of winger Souleymane Diarra but Ligue 2 side Lens came to the rescue picking him up on loan for the rest of the season.

Puskás Akadémia: Attila Pintér’s side come into this one buoyed by consecutive wins after just two point in their first five contests. Puskás are another team that has seen great upheaval in their ranks after climbing back into the top flight after just a season away. Their five-goal haul at Haladás in the last round left them purring as they headed into the international break.
Ulysse Diallo has landed once more and has looked successful thus far, but the Malian striker did the same after joining Mezőkövesd last season and petered out after a while. More impressive has been attacking midfielder Josip Knezevic who has scored three goals while assisting on two others in just six games.

Prediction: Újpest 2-1 Puskás Akadémia
Can Puska’s keep up their momentum? Winning two games against the bottom two sides isn’t all that impressive and Újpest should provide a sterner test here.

Sunday, 10 September

Videoton vs Haladás

at Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Videoton: Last season’s runners-up looked good midweek as they dispatched Paks 4-1 at Fehérvári úti where they’d previously won just once in their last 8 there. After bowing out of the Europa League at the last hurdle, first-year manager Marko Nikolic is hoping to turn his attention to the league – the league they’re already leading despite fighting on both domestic and continental fronts. Now, with only the NB1 to concentrate on, Nikolic’s biggest problem might be player rotation. Ezekiel Henty will provide a stronger target man up front with more technical and creative forwards such as Danko Lazovic and Marko Scepovic will find much more freedom behind able to play off of him in attack.

Haladás: After consecutive defeats before the international break Haladás will have welcomed the two weeks as they’ve had much to sort out. A 5-1 defeat at the hands of Puskás was the final straw as manager Géza Mézöly was sent packing, and he was replaced with Béla Illés Academy owner Bálint Pacsi. No stranger to the Haladás setup, Pacsi has had little time to make any changes but his most important move was to reinstate veteran Péter Halmosi’s role in the squad. He was too late to the game to add anyone by the transfer deadline and now he will be tested straight away as he and his squad travel to Felcsút in hopes of beating Vidi for the first time in eight attempts. It was October 2015 when Hali last defeated Videoton.
Pasci will find no sympathy from Videoton as the former look to create a bigger gap at the top of the table, but it’s usually these games that players will look to impress their new manager and perhaps pull off a surprise.

Prediction: Videoton 3-1 Haladás
No surprises here. Marko Scepovic never came off the bench against Paks and he’s rested for this one. Despite playing in mid-week I can’t see Videoton losing here – even against an inspired and hopeful Haladás under Pacsi.

Paks vs Honvéd

at Fehérvári úti stadion, Paks

Paks: The magic is already gone. Their safe place has been violated and Paks are a team without an identity. Well, it’s not THAT bad, but Wednesday’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Videoton at home won’t do much for their confidence. It took until spring of last season before Paks lost a home game in the league – they barely made it to September this term. Aurél Csertoi added experienced defensive midfielder Ádám Simon this week. Simon had started the season with Haladás and played all 7 games to start the season but asked to be released before the transfer window shut. It should be a good move for the 27 year-old who can add some stability to Paks’ defense and will be hoping to make Csertoi’s starting eleven on Sunday.

Honvéd: The champions entered the break on a sour note as they fell heavily at home to Debrecen. After three consecutive victories it looked as if Honvéd would stride into September hot on Vidi’s heels but they looked rudderless and even the talismanic efforts of one Davide Lanzafame couldn’t help them out this time. The Italian was rendered ineffective ultimately and an early penalty had them on their heels.
Owner, George F. Hemingway has hinted that he could be lining up a defender and a midfielder to sign in September, but his best bit of business has to be keeping Lanzafame at the club. Lanzafame has already scored 5 goals, three of which have been levelers or winners, and he’s also added four assists. With Dávid Gróf in goal and a sound defense anchored by Ivan Lovric and captain Djordje Kamber (both who’ve just signed new contracts) it’s unlikely they’ll give up more than two goals in any game – it only happened once all of last season.

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Honvéd
Kispest are facing Paks at a good time. With Paks’ home bubble already burst there’s no telling what can happen in this one but I’m backing a close game here.