NB1 – Round 21 Preview

Okay folks – Hungarian football is back and it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before! In conditions that resembled ice hockey more than football the teams returned to action last week and, surprisingly, all matches were able to be completed.
Paul Treso and Chris Barrett  continue to work feverishly to provide previews and prognostications of each match.

Paul: Hello Chris.  I hope things warm up this week and the rust wears off after the long Winter break.  I was quite surprised that all the games were played last week and not one had to be abandoned. This week that may not be the case according to early reports.   I would dare say the coldest match, Ferencváros vs Honvéd was the match of the week.  The surprise of the week was the poor performance of Debrecen at home which caught you and I off guard totally.  The fans of Paks came through and helped the club shovel the snow off the pitch prior to match time.  Not sure if ticket discounts were given!   Let’s hope the weather and play improve this week.

Chris: Yes, it was amazing that all the matches went on as planned and I think we saw a few more goals than we had expected with the low temperatures. Balmazujváros and Paks’ late wins were quite a show and Fradi’s dismantling of Honvéd’s defense might have been a statement of intent to all title chasers. As of this writing the games were set to go ahead as planned but, as we all know, anything can happen.

Saturday, 3 March
Haladás vs Vasas
at Szombathelyi Haladás Stadion, Szombathelyi

Paul: Haladás has played very well in their new home stadium with impressive wins over Videoton and Fradi.   Will the fans come out in the poor weather?  Michal Hipp has installed a good system for Haladás and with some better finishing should have had a better result against Újpest.  I see goals being the biggest hurdle for the team’s success the rest of the season.  More players need to step forward as goal scorers.
Vasas played well and gave Videoton quite a battle a week ago.  The effort appears to be there and the team is working hard.  Michael Oenning’s job may be on the line should the losses continue.  I don’t care to have Géza Mészöly back in the NB1 again.   I see a competitive game with the weather the great equalizer, making for a draw.
Prediction: Haladás 1-1 Vasas

Chris: Haladás ended the Fall Season on a three-match winning run but were unable to break through what has been an unreliable Újpest defense in frigid conditions last week in Budapest. They return home to a place that has been a huge boost to the team’s confidence, winning both league games there since it opened in early November. The defeat saw Haladás slip into the relegation zone. If Hali need goals they don’t have to look much further than David Williams who still leads the team despite being relegated to the bench since Hipp’s arrival. The Australian hasn’t played a full 90 minutes since Hipp took over and has come on as a late substitute in three of the last four games.
Vasas are in trouble. The defeat to Videoton last week was their fourth on the bounce and they haven’t won a game since mid-October. They have conceded 24 goals in their travels (6 more than second worse Mezo and Puskás). It’s no wonder they’re just one point off the drop zone. Michael Oenning’s side played bravely against Vidi but Dávid Barczi’s dismissal all but ended their hopes for a share of the points last week in Felcsút. Now with their new signing in the stands and a virtually unchanged cast of characters from December, Vasas will continue to struggle in what will be a relegation six-pointer.
Prediction: Haladás 2-1 Vasas

Diósgyőr vs Ferencváros
at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Paul: I daydream of this game being played in Diósgyőr’s new home to a full house in nice spring weather.  We will have to wait a while for packed matches in Miskolc.  Right now, Diósgyőr are struggling and facing the dilemma of playing a home match this week in Debrecen.  Facing  a strong  Ferencváros team will not help the matter at all.   In a post match interview, manager Tamas Bódog was clearly frustrated with last weeks performance of his squad, as evidenced by his short, one or two-word answers.
Ferencváros looked strong in their last match with Daniel Böde scoring 2 goals and looking in fine form.   The team is hitting on all cylinders at the moment.  I don’t see the weather or Diósgyőr standing in their way in this match.  Not many goals will be scored but Fradi will be in control all 90 minutes.  I miss seeing Zoltan Gera for Ferencváros but the squad looks ready for the sad day he retires from football.  Of course, I hope to see him this season!
Prediction: Diósgyőr 0-2 Ferencváros

Chris: After such a promising start at Diósgyőr, Tamás Bódog seems to have lost the plot lately. After rallying to end a four-match winless run at the end of the fall season, he crashed to a fourth defeat in six games and is settling into mid-table. Bódog’s uncertainty came in two halftime substitutions last week which looked to earn his side an important point away, but his side couldn’t keep their concentration and ultimately fell to late goal in Paks. This is a team that is capable of beating any team on a given day but they seem to have lost their edge.
Ferencváros showed their dominance with a thrilling five-goal effort over last season’s champions Honvéd last week extending their undefeated streak at home to ten games. Roland Varga is due to score this week. He hasn’t scored in their last four but he’s set up four goals in that span and is a constant threat. Böde has re-discovered his scoring touch, and players like Fernando Gorriaran and Leandro have opened their accounts recently as well. That’s good news for manager Thomas Doll who seems to have his squad running on all cylinders.
Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-3 Ferencváros

Puskás Akadémia vs Debrecen
at Pancho Arena, Felcsút

Paul: Your guess is as good as mine in this match.  Puskás and Pinter have a love/hate relationship with Hungarian fans.  The money is there but the results are not.  Pinter has the players and a high bank roll to boot.  I see Puskás getting things right in this match with the new players making a difference.  Henty should start and play well.
Debrecen appears to be losing steam and their loss to Balmazújváros continues their poor year-end form.  András Herczeg has his work cut out for him in rejuvenating this squad and finding the good play that began the season.  It is a youthful squad so things can go either way.
Prediction: Puskás Akadémia 2-1 Debrecen

Chris: What can I say about Puskás Akadémia? They’re a team that so many love to hate. With all their resources and an established manager one would think they’d be better than two points clear of the drop zone at this stage in the competition but they’re not. A bore draw in a cold Városi Stadion might have been they could hope for in such conditions last week. Pintér’s task is to rally this assembly of individually talented players, who are suffering from mild non-cohesion, into a cohesive squad. They have the worst offense at home this season with only 10 goals in as many games at Pancho Arena.
Debrecen look to have rallied at year’s end with consecutive victories before a disappointing defeat against DVTK. Herczeg’s Loki are now perilously close to dropping out of the top three this week after heart-breaking home reverse against Balmazújváros last week. They beat Puskás 3-0 back in late September at home when they were in a vein of form but now they look like a team that’s been on break for far too long. Scores have been low this season when Puskás play at home and the weather won’t help things in this one.  My guess will be “better” than Paul’s though …
Prediction: Puskás Akadémia 1-1 Debrecen

Balmazújváros vs Paks
at Balmazújvárosi Sportpálya, Balmazújváros

Paul: Balmazújváros played very well last week in beating Debrecen away from home.  Now the consistency question comes into play with a winnable home match against Paks.  Ferenc Horvath looks to have had a fine winter preparation period with his squad.  I see Balmaz continuing the good play from last week and securing a nice win in the battle to stay up.
Paks put in a good effort in beating Diósgyőr last week.   A special mention to  the hundreds of fans who answered the call to get the pitch in playable condition.  They create a good atmosphere at home.  This match is away and Paks’ form has not been so good away.  It should be a competitive match decided by a single goal.
Prediction: Balmazújváros 2-1 Paks

Chris: Just when I’m about to write Balmaz off they turn around and impress me again. I’ve found a new respect for Ferenc Horváth who has done a great job with few resources. His game management against Debrecen last week was perfect with the introduction of Gergely Rudolf and Ferenc Rácz at just the right time. Rudolf factored in both goals and Rácz scored his third this season from off the bench. They are now on a six-match unbeaten run and have only lost once since the end of September. They’ve played better away from home this season but I think it would be ludicrous to count them out against Paks.
Zsolt Haraszti scored a late game-winner in front of the home support last week to open his account this season for Paks. It was a sensational moment for the winger who scored his last goal almost a year ago against Ferencváros in a 3-1 win. The 26-year old hasn’t had many chances this season in only 10 appearances but he made it count last week. Paks are doing what they do best this season – just enough to stay out of trouble. They haven’t been their dominant self at home despite only two defeats there, but they positioned themselves into a misty view of the top three at present.
If this game is even played this week I think both will be happy with a point.
Prediction: Balmazújváros 1-1 Paks

Újpest vs Mezőkövesd
at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest

Paul: Újpest has started off the year nicely with a win over Haladas and a cup win earlier this week against Paks.  Daniel Nagy is playing at a National Team level and along with Soma Novothny, make for a nice duo.  I see Újpest making a run at a European spot this Spring. Nebojsa Vignjevic finally has the team playing well  and with more consistency good things are to come.
Mezőkövesd are Mezőkövesd.  They play a defensive style of football with the hope of a goal to win matches.  Very vanilla and nothing exciting.  If you made it through their last game against Puskas, you deserve a palinka.   Bonus points if fans sat in the cold to watch the game live.  With that said, look for Újpest to continue a run up the table.
Prediction: Újpest 2-0 Mezőkövesd

Chris: Újpest are used to the cold; the ice. They’ve navigated the treacherous conditions twice in six days and have emerged victorious on both occasions. Nebojsa Vignjevic, the Ice King of the Danube, has somehow managed two clean sheets in a row. It’s the first time all season Lilák have accomplished this and is it too easy to think that the return of David Mohl at left back has something to do with it? Perhaps, but it might be just as convenient to give too much credit to the cold. I’m still not convinced they have exorcised their demons when it comes to close games late and they still look a bit frantic.
Mezőkövesd have now played three goalless draws on the trot and are headed out of the league on their current course. It’s not too late, however, as they’re just four points adrift, but Attila Kuttor will have to gamble if they’re to do more than hope for a share of the points. To be fair, they are unbeaten in their last five with an away win over Honvéd sprinkled in for good measure.
In their last two meetings there have ten goals scored between these two teams. I wouldn’t expect anything like that here but I do think it will be close.
Prediction: Újpest 1-1 Mezőkövesd

Honvéd vs Videoton
at Bozsik József Stadion, Budapest (TV: M4 Sport)

Paul: I have to give credit for Honvéd’s style of attacking football.  It is fun football to watch and I see another high scoring game against Videoton. Honvéd was in the game against Ferencvaros at 3-2 then came  Lanzafame’s penalty miss, and the squad fell apart.
Videoton did not particularly impress against Vasas but secured a win to match Ferencvaros.   Vasas always seems to play them well.  Look here for Videoton to have a very offensive game ala Ferencvaros.  I see this as the “match of the week” with plenty of goals and questionable defense.  The “Serbian trio” will score all four goals for the away team.
Prediction: Honvéd 2-4 Videoton

Chris: Even before I saw Paul’s prediction I thought this could be another high scoring game. Honvéd have fallen apart defensively and are worse at home, conceding 20 goals for worst in the league thus far. Their biggest worry, however, has to be the apparent lack of confidence of their most dangerous weapon Davide Lanzafame. The Italian scoring machine that wowed the league last season and started this year’s campaign with a bang has gone hiding. Lanzafame hasn’t scored in four games despite a multitude of chances including a penalty last week (which was saved by Fradi ‘keeper Dénes Dibusz). Márton Eppel finally picked up the load with a brace at Groupama Arena but it wasn’t enough against the rampant pacesetters.
Videoton were good but not great against Vasas. They ended the fall season with consecutive defeats and fell out of the top spot for the first time since August, but kept pace last week thanks to their newest signing Stefan Scepovic. Does that name sound familiar? Yep and if you think Vidi’s attack was potent already it should be out and out dominant as Marko’s older brother settles in.
I’m getting crazy here but I think this will be an entertaining, high-scoring affair but Honvéd will do just enough to get a point.
Prediction: Honvéd 3-3 Videoton