NB1 – Round 22 preview

Paul and Chris  are licking their wounds after a particularly harsh match day 21 where the likes of Újpest and Ferencváros went down to surprising defeats. Last season’s title rematch between Videoton and Honvéd was abandoned due to the pitch resembling the wastelands of Siberia than a proper surface (like Paks’), meaning we’ll never really know the lowly depths our predictions for that week. So Paul and Chris will return to the punishment buffet (commonly known as the NB1) as proper gluttons.

Paul: Hello Chris.  I don’t know about you but I had a terrible week 21.  I’m ready to throw my hands up in frustration but then again I’m thankful to live in California with nice weather and not the unpredictable Hungarian winter.   Once again I was fooled by every single team in the first division. Just when I thought Ferencváros was ready to pull away from the pack, they lost to a pesky Diósgyőr side. Újpest show they are not ready to be a consistent top 3 club.  The fight to stay in the NB1 may prove to be as exciting as anything else in the division. Apologies to Mezőkövesd who I called vanilla and not very exciting, they were anything but.   Chris and I won’t give up and hope to have better fortunes in Round 22!

Chris: I have to admit that I sensed Haladás coming up with a big win and they didn’t disappoint, but there certainly were a number of surprising results last week. Lilák proved they still can’t hold a lead, Tamás Bódog’s halftime pep talk must have stirred something within the DVTK squad, and Vasas sunk to a new low. Let’s move on to this week’s action and see what’s in store.

Saturday, 10 March

Vasas vs Honvéd
at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest

Paul: Vasas did not show up at against Haladás.  I saw no inspiration or fight whatsoever from the club which was quite disappointing.  Michael Oenning’s time at Vasas will not be long unless the wins start happening now.  Rumours are circulating of either Géza Mészöly or Bernd Storck replacing Oenning as the manager.  Last year’s great season is only a memory and relegation is a real possibility.  The squad is weak and nearing the point where the manager will be the sacrificial lamb for the team’s  poor performances. Vasas has 5 defeats in a row and counting…
Honvéd had a week off due to the poor playing conditions at Bozsik József Stadion which at least meant they did not lose.  Vasas should be the right medicine for a Honvéd club that has lost four out of their last five games.  Look for Davide Lanzafame to find his goal scoring touch again along with an assist to Eppel.  As long as Lanzafame plays well and is interested, Honvéd are a fun side to watch. Once again, what a difference a year makes for last year’s champions.
Prediction: Vasas 1-3 Honvéd

Chris: This is a match with 102 years of history behind it and this will be the 176th league meeting between these old foes. Vasas will want to look back on better days but their dreadful run continued last week. What’s more concerning is their lack of goals over the long haul. In their last 11 games they’ve scored more than one goal only once, and have been kept off the score sheet four times. Managing director Miklós Vancsa believes that the club can stay up but he had some strong words  for his team this week ahead of the match against Honvéd. Manager Michael Oenning has bemoaned his lack of depth due to injury, but he should see some of his wounded returning shortly. Mohamed Remeli’s injury last week shouldn’t keep him out of this one and team co-scoring leader Bálint Gaál could be ready.
Attila Supka’s start at Kispest hasn’t been stellar with a nervy win at home against Paks and then a total defensive breakdown at Groupama a fortnight ago. With an extra week to prepare, Honvéd will want to take full advantage of Vasas’ current plight. Davide Lanzafame’s inability to find the back of the net recently has hurt the champions in their quest for a top three spot. The question will be, has the time off helped them to prepare or will it dull their match sharpness? The way things have been going this spring I’m guessing the former.
Prediction: Vasas 2-2 Honvéd

Ferencváros vs Balmazújváros
at Groupama Arena, Budapest

Paul: Just when I thought, Ferencváros was going to start separating themselves from the competition, they lose.  Such is football in Hungary. Parity is the rule not the exception in Hungarian football.   Ferencváros lacked fight and aggressiveness last weak, both qualities Diósgyőr used to pull off the upset last week.   At home, Ferencváros should be back in the win column, though this match will not be easy. Nice to see Daniel Böde in such good form, and the fall play of Roland Varga would be very welcome again for Ferencváros, along with the swift return of Zoltán Gera.
Ferenc Horváth has his squad playing well so this match should not be the blow out it would have been at the start of the season.   Look for Horváth to come up with a game plan to keep his squad in the match. Gergely Rudolf is turning into a good substitution option for the squad but lacks the match fitness to play a full match.  Balmazújváros has drawn four of its last five matches but a draw here appears to be too optimistic.   Ferencváros will win but only by a goal over an overachieving Balmazújváros squad in an entertaining match.
Prediction: Ferencváros 2-1 Balmazújváros

Chris: On paper this is a slam-dunk, no-question, Fradi masterclass that vaults them in the clear at the top of the table, right? Who are we kidding? This is the NB1 folks … where dreams come to die. Thomas Doll’s squad had a chance to show they meant business last week against a Diósgyor side that seemed all but capsized but the current league frontrunners reverted to the stuff of the German manager’s nightmares. Frustratingly so as they grabbed an early lead and looked on course, but lost their concentration after the break. This is another golden opportunity for them. The chance to wash away the bitter taste of last week in their own house, but their opponents are feeling their oats.
Last week’s goalless draw against Paksi extended Balmazújváros’ unbeaten run to seven games and has kept them above the relegation zone for another week. It was also their third clean sheet in succession which has been the most impressive part. Ferenc Horváth’s side have already matched their number of clean sheets from the fall season. I think it’s a stretch to say that Balmaz will end Fradi’s home unbeaten record on Saturday but they could give them a run for their money.
Prediction: Ferencváros 1-0 Balmazújváros

Debrecen vs Újpest
at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Paul: Debrecen played better last week against Puskas but has yet to score in league play in the new year.  The chances were there but poor finishing occurs a lot in Hungarian football. Andras Herczeg has to be wondering what happened to the squad that started off so well in the fall and has yet to make an appearance in the new year.  The real Debrecen is somewhere in between the current and the fall squad at the moment.
Nebojsa Vignjevic has to be pulling his hair out after Újpest were not able to close out and win yet another match.  The club has left a lot of points on the table. This is the type of match that can have any outcome and it will not surprise anyone.  Both squads lack consistency and have the “inconsistent” tag on their shoulders. With that said, I see goals finally and another draw which does neither side much good.
Prediction: Debrecen 2-2 Újpest

Chris: András Herczeg is really missing the likes of Aleksandar Jovanovic and Justin Mengolo on the wings, and it’s shown as they’ve yet to score in the spring without the craft, speed and aggression of two of their biggest threats. Debrecen are also thin in defense with János Ferenczi and Balázs Bényei out injured. To top it off, stalwart central defender Csaba Szatmári will miss this week due to collecting his fifth caution last week against Puskás. It’s a low time for Loki who were flying high in the fall and they’ll need to see some fringe players step up to get anything out of this one.
Újpest are like a broken record when it comes to late-game concentration. Up 2-1 with 20 minutes to play at home last week, they conceded twice to throw away three important points. A poor performance by goalkeeper Filip Pajovic led to the defeat but it couldn’t have happened with that alone. Lilák’s defense has been suspect for most of this campaign and it’s not due to lack of talent. Szusza Ferenc should be a fortress for them but it really makes no difference this season as they continue to struggle dropping points late in games. They did see off Paks in the Magyar Kupa earlier this week to advance in what could be their only realistic chance for silverware this season.
Újpest haven’t defeated Debrecen away from home since 2013 and have lost their last three meetings with them on the road. However, with Loki’s selection troubles they’ll have a chance to get points here. I have to agree with Paul – another draw is on the cards.
Prediction: Debrecen 2-2 Újpest

Paks vs Puskás Akadémia
at Fehérvári úti Stadion, Paks

Paul: Two squads with different approaches to football.  Paks play all Hungarians and while Puskas claim to be an academy club, yet a majority of the starting line-up is made of foreign players.  Congratulations to Aurél Csertői on a richly deserved contract extension. He always seem to get the best of his teams. His team celebrates with a nice home win over the “Academy.”
Puskás Akadémia has not given up a goal in  2018 league play but at the same time, they have not scored any goals either.   Always look at the bright side of life, right? In Hungary, they say things happen in 3’s but I can’t see another 0-0 draw for Puskas. A goal will be scored but not enough for a win and Paks reasserts their home advantage against a hapless Puskás Akadémia.
Prediction: Paks 2-1 Puskás Akadémia

Chris: Paks returned home with a quality point in unfavorable conditions in Balmazújváros last week. They are tough at home and will hope to use it to full advantage this week. They defeated Puskás in Felcsút back in late September and should be confident to get maximum points here.
Puskás could be getting a huge boost to their squad if forward András Radó returns from a broken ankle this week. The former Fradi forward switched to Puskás last summer but went down with the injury against Honvéd in early August. He might not be fully match fit but if he does play it could energize a lethargic attack that has yet to score this spring. Ezekiel Henty got another 72 minutes in last week but has yet to open his account since moving from Videoton during the winter. Puskás has the players to win games but they’re just not taking full advantage. With only one win in their last five they are slipping down the table.
Prediction: Paks 1-1 Puskás Akadémia

Mezőkövesd vs Haladás
at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Paul: I must commend Mezőkövesd on their win over last week.  They showed that they will battle until the end to stay up in the first division.  Super sub Márk Koszta came on to score two crucial goals to defeat Újpest. The time has arrived for the ex-Honvéd player to join the starting 11 now.   Strange side note that manager, Attila Kuttor, never appears at the end of matches for interviews on the “Góóól!” show on M4.  Please watch it as it is  nice wrap up show available to watch online.  Mezőkövesd has not lost in their last 8 matches, of which 6 are draws.
Haladás continued their strong form at their new home with a 3-0 thrashing of Vasas.  Myke Ramos had a nice goal from a long pass that is worth watching again if you can. One almost wants  Barnabás Rácz to score to witness his Zoltán Gera-esque goal celebrations. The backline of Haladás was impressive with four players, including the age-less Gábor Király earning top 4 ratings in the InStat Index of the last round.   Haladás has yet to lose in their new stadium but this match sees them away. Both clubs are playing well, which will  continue but neither club can pull away from the other in a tight match.
Prediction: Mezőkövesd 1-1 Haladás

Chris: Rooted at the bottom of the table, Mezőkövesd look doomed to relegation. However, if you look at their recent run of form they are unbeaten in their last six matches and have only conceded two goals in their last four. Márk Koszta’s late show off the bench last week against Újpest was a boost to their hopes of staying alive in NB1. Now, only three points from the line they return home to play Haladás. Városi Stadion hasn’t been a welcome place for them this season though. Only one win in ten home games is not maximizing potential by any means.
Haladás returned to winning ways last week with an impressive win over dismal Vasas. Their home record is impressive with six wins in 12 games which is the third best home record in the league. Away from home they’ve lost seven of nine. I’m not going with the trend here as Haladás should have enough quality to see their way past Mezo, but it won’t be easy. If they’re to pull away from relegation trouble now they’ll need these three points. Besides, Mezőkövesd haven’t won two games on the trot since the first two games of the season.
Prediction: Mezőkövesd 1-2 Haladás

Videoton vs Diósgyor
at Pancho Arena, Felcsút (TV: M4 Sport)

Paul: Videoton return after a week off due to the poor pitch conditions against Honvéd. Interestingly, Szabolcs Huszti was on the bench for Videoton’s first match but he should be kept away from any match action until the the pitch conditions improve.  Videoton’s attacking football should be too much in this match against the upstart Diósgyőr club who disposed of Ferencváros last week.
Tamás Bódog has a rare ability to get his team up for matches against the top clubs.  Interesting side note, Bódog is just a day older than myself for what it is worth. Can Diósgyőr pull off a Haladás feat and defeat Vidi and Fradi two weeks in a row? Big difference is this game is being played away, otherwise anything is possible in the wild, wild NB1.  In a match of contrasting styles and coaches, this match should serve as a fitting end to round 22.
Prediction: Videoton 3-1 Diósgyor

Chris: Marko Nikolics continues to be rumored as Partizan’s next manager which can’t be going over well at the club. Videoton are on course to challenge for the title again this season and have had an extra week to prepare for this match, as well as deal with speculation. The club has reiterated that Nikolics is under contract and won’t respond to rumors but that kind of news has to be unsettling to club looking to win the title. Along with that, Vidi might also be on the hook for a fine due to a loophole in the regulations for calling off their match against Honvéd last week. Either way they’ll need to come up with maximum points to put pressure on the league leaders. I have to say they didn’t look particularly impressive against Vasas at home in their first game back, needing a second half goal to win it and failing to produce a third against ten men.
Diósgyor were awakened from their slumber last week and shocked most of us with an impressive, come-from-behind victory against Ferencváros. It wasn’t pretty and the game turned ugly toward the end with goal-scorer Dusan Brkovic being send off in the dying moments. But it was a gritty win and it has to be a boost for Tamás Bódog who was showing tantrum-level frustration. This has the potential to not only be exciting on the score sheet but also in the referee’s book.

Prediction: Videoton 2-2 Diósgyor