NB1 Round 23 preview

It just keeps keeps getting better as the spring season rolls right along. Read on and get a preview of all the drama as the last third of the NB1 season kicks off on Saturday.

Paul: Well a little bit of separation and congestion has definitely occurred after round 22.  It is two team race: Ferencváros and Videoton battling it out for championship.   The other ten teams are “the rest.” Their fates can be anywhere from relegation to a spot in Europe for the third place club.   The fourth European place will depend on the Hungarian Cup results. I’ve never seen such parity in Hungarian football. Usually by now at least one club is relegation bound but at the moment only 5 points separate the bottom 7 clubs.  Anything can happen and it usually does in Hungarian football. Armed with 100 forint coins to flip, Chris and I are ready to predict yet again.

Chris: Yes, it’s going to be either Fradi or Vidi that celebrate the championship this season but there is still so much to unfold. Mezőkövesd’s two-game winning streak has thrown a wrench into the whole table as they’ve crawled back into a relegation scrap and dragged Haladás, Balmazúváros and Vasas into their sights. Back to the stats and the trends to pick the winners and be completely humbled by the fickle fates of NB1 football.

Saturday, 17 March

Honvéd vs Haladás
at Bozsik József Stadion, Budapest

Paul: Honvéd have not had a promising start in the New Year with two away loses.  The “magic” of last year is gone. The team lacks the creative play of last season.  The defense is prone to giving up goals in bunches. Davide Lanzafame was frustrated against Vasas as he was wrapped up by Kire Ristevski and given no space to operate.  Your guess is as good as mine in this match. I have to believe Lanzafame will be the difference in a tight match.
Haladás have also lost their last two away matches but put up a good fight against an in-form Mezőkövesd club.  In 10 away matches, they have only managed one win and one draw. Even with the poor form of Honvéd recently, the away form of Haladás is questionable at best.   They are improving under their new manager but the away results have not been there.
Prediction: Honvéd 2-1 Haladás

Chris: Honvéd’s tough defeat at Vasas last week means they’ve lost five of their last six games and are struggling to hold on to a mid-table position. I watched their midweek cup match against Debrecen and didn’t see anything that would suggest they’re near to breaking out of their current slump. Márton Eppel missed a penalty (a common occurrence among Honvéd players these days) and Kispest never looked in control of the game. This is a rough patch for the champions and another defeat could put them closer to relegation rather than the top three.
Haladás suffered a narrow defeat at Mezőkövesd last week, but that could have been expected as they are woeful away from home this season (4 points and 7 goals in 10 games). Normally this would be another difficult trip as they’ve lost their last two at Bozsik Stadion but Kispest are in a bad place.
This could be a scrappy game and I’m not tipping it to be a thing of beauty but I’m backing the hosts to just edge this one.
Prediction: Honvéd 2-1 Haladás

Vasas vs Diósgyor
at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest

Paul: Vasas won for the first time after losing their last 4 matches.  Michael Oenning had his club playing with aggressiveness and fight.   For now his job is safe and the rumor mill can quiet down at least this week.  Gergely Nagy returned after a long absence and provided a stable presence in the goal.  Perhaps the club can regain some of last season’s magic? This should be a bruising matching between two aggressive clubs.  With that said more yellow cards than goals by a mile.
Tamás Bódog’s Diósgyőr is a very up and down roller coaster club, one weak defeating  Ferencváros and the next getting blown out by Videoton. They play up or down to the level of their opponent.  This should be a choppy game at best. I see lots of set pieces and a corner kick goal wins it, perhaps by Tamás Vaskó like last season?
Prediction: Vasas 1-0 Diósgyor

Chris: With their first league victory under their belt since mid-October, Vasas “host” Diósgyor with the hopes of keeping up some momentum. It’s possible the strong challenge from Managing Director Miklós Vancsa put a fire under some under-performers, and this week’s opposition could be ripe for the picking as DVTK come in after being handed a 4-1 whipping at the hands of Videoton. Vasas have yet to score against Diósgyor this season and have conceded 7 goals in two games against them already.
Diósgyor will have to pick themselves up off the floor after Danko Lazovic’s blitzkrieg, first half brace against them last week. Tamás Bódog’s men never recovered and failed to keep up with the other chasers for third place. They won’t be facing Vidi’s speed of attack in Vasas this week, but Michael Oenning’s side still has some poachers that could abuse a defense that has conceded 14 goals in their last 8 games.
This smells like a draw.
Prediction: Vasas 2-2 Diósgyor

Videoton vs Balmazújváros
at Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Paul: Videoton looked great in quickly disposing of Diósgyőr to keep pace with Ferencváros. Danko Lazovic quickly scored two goals to erase any doubts of the end result of the match. The club is looking very well and it will be a two horse race between Videoton and Ferencváros for the championship.  Can Vidi score 5 against Balmazújváros? They will most likely back off after scoring a comfortable 4 goals.
Balmazújváros had been playing well before their debacle against Ferencváros.  Playing the league leaders away in consecutive weeks is not easy for anyone so another big loss is in the cards.  The fight for relegation will continue and will need to be won when and if Balmazújváros will be able to defeat fellow bottom feeders.
Prediction: Videoton 4-1 Balmazújvaros

Chris: A third successive home game for Videoton? It almost doesn’t seem fair, does it? In their last five home matches they’ve scored 14 goals and only conceded two. Danko and Marko look like they’re back to their confident selves, and the addition of Stefan Scepovic has given them another color on their attacking “easel” to paint with up front. Marko’s older brother already has two goals in two games since joining the club.
Ferenc Horváth’s side were hammered by Ferencváros 5-0 last week so their midweek demolition of NB2 side Bekescaba by the same score line in the Magyar Kupa might fuel a better effort on Saturday. The defeat against Fradi was their worst of the season but they can take heart that they’ve managed to remain in a competitive spot to avoid relegation so late in their inaugural season in the top flight. They’ve managed 1-1 draws against Videoton in both of their matches against them already this season, but I feel as if another result is too big an ask this week.
Prediction: Videoton 3-1 Balmazújvaros

Paks vs Újpest
at Fehérvári úti Stadion, Paks

Paul: Paks recent good form has found them in the fifth spot competing for a place in Europe. Paks has not qualified for Europe since finishing second in the 2010-2011 season.  Not getting too far ahead of ourselves, now lies a battle with fellow rivals Újpest.  Can Paks regain their “home pitch” advantage of the past in a big game?   If the fans can turn out in force, a nice win can happen with a determined group led by manager, Aurél Csertői.  The “Atomcsapat” (Nuclear team) comes up big in this one.
Újpest pulled even on points with Debrecen after nice win against DVSC.  Can they do it again away at Paks? This week finds them against a club surprisingly just a point behind then.  Nebojsa Vignjevic has Újpest in a good position but once again consistency is the key.  In addition, playing a cup tie on Tuesday puts the club at a slight additional  disadvantage. Not ready to predict another away win for the “Lilák”, but  would not be surprised with either variation of a 2-1 scoreline.
Prediction: Paks 2-1 Újpest

Chris: It hasn’t been two week since Lilák last won at Paksi Stadion – a 2-0 win in the second leg of the Magyar Kupa on 6 March saw them through to the quarterfinals. Újpest have also had pretty good luck in Paks, losing just once in their last seven trips there. Nebojsa Vignjevic’s charges won again in the cup this week. Fielding a weakened side, they were able to see off MTK 2-1 in the first leg of their quarterfinal and should be feeling good ahead of this one. Despite a shaky defense and some dodgy goalkeeping by Filip Pajovic this season, they’ve managed to stay near the top three and have actually won six of their last seven.
Paks are feeling confident after a strong home win against Puskás last week and I think they’ll have enough to stall Lilák’s climb.
Prediction: Paks 1-1 Újpest

Debrecen vs Mezőkövesd
at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Paul: Debrecen deserved a better fate in their match last week against Újpest.  A bit odd that manager András Herczeg is speaking of the fight to avoid relegation while the club currently sits in the third spot.   As Chris noted last week, Debrecen is missing several key players and the injuries have greatly hurt a club with a lack of depth.   The club lacks any bonafide goal scorers.
Mezőkövesd have won their last two matches in a row are back in the chase to stay in the first division.  They looked to be surely relegated but are now in the picture and manager, Attila Kuttor has installed a quiet confidence and belief in his club.  Márk Koszta started finally and scored yet another goal in a well deserved win at home versus Haladás. I believe in Mezőkövesd and am picking them to beat Debrecen away as they did Újpest two weeks ago. In the fall such a result would have been unheard of from the newly promoted club.
Prediction: Debrecen 0-1 Mezőkövesd

Chris: Patrik Tischler’s last gasp goal for Újpest sent Debrecen to their third defeat in their last four games but they still remain in third place despite their current skid. With winger János Ferenczi out for the season, András Herczeg is without an important weapon out wide. However, they still have options in attack and need to rediscover the confidence they had back in late August and early September. Norbert Könyves’ goal at the 76 minute mark last week was the first goal of the spring for Loki and they’ll be looking to add to that against the NB1 basement dwellers this week.
Mezőkövesd have surprised many NB1 followers with victories in successive weeks to sling them into the midst of relegation fight. After three straight goalless draws they’ve exploded with five goals in their last two games. Márk Koszta has been the inspiration behind the surge in offense with three of those goals and he now leads the team with eight.
I have a sneaky feeling that Debrecen will “switch back on” this week and get a big win here.
Prediction: Debrecen 2-1 Mezőkövesd

Ferencváros vs Puskás Akadémia
at Groupama Arena, Budapest (TV: M4 Sport)

Paul: Ferencváros throttled Balmazújváros 5-0 at home and more of the same should occur against Puskás.  Look for the goals to pile up once again and help Ferencváros’ goal differential.   Can Daniel Böde score another hat trick this week?  He has scored 6 goals in his last three matches.   Fradi have scored a 10 goals in two home contests and may keep their average at 5.  Nice to see Roland Varga back in the line-up.
Puskás Akadémia is in a tailspin with a terrible beginning to the new year.  The club was very busy during the Winter break but the new additions have not had the expected impact on the club.   Last week found Puskás playing 9 foreign players in their loss to the “All Hungarian” Paks side. Tuesday, Puskás continued their slide with a loss at home against Diósgyőr in the Hungarian Cup.  Things don’t figure to get any better this week against a high scoring Fradi. Another high scoring game with all the goals coming from Ferencváros.
Prediction: Ferencváros 4-0 Puskás

Chris: Daniel Böde is already one goal shy of last season’s total of eleven after last week’s remarkable performance. His hat trick could have been four had he converted the penalty that was handed to him in the 60th minute but it wasn’t to be. Fradi’s response to their 2-1 defeat against Diósgyor a fortnight ago was clinical and complete against Balmazújváros and they’ll look to build on that on Saturday.  They’ve won their last eight games at home and I can’t see them falling here against a Puskás side that has only scored once since the start of the spring season. Fradi have also never lost to Puskás at home.
Attila Pintér’s side were thumped at Paks last week and they continue to struggle mightily on the road. I don’t see that changing here. They’ve drawn both games against them 1-1 so far this season, but Thomas Doll has his side hitting on all cylinders at home this season.
Prediction: Ferencváros 3-1 Puskás