NB1 Round 25 preview

Only Paks gained any ground in the league last week as five of last week’s six NB1 matches ended all square.  After another midweek slate of Magyar Kupa games, the league resumes for round 25 with a proper headliner in Videoton hosting Újpest at Pancho Arena.  Read on for a full preview of all of Saturday’s matches.   

  

Paul:  Good day, Sire Chris.   Round 24 proved to be somewhat of a “Game of Thrones” episode, not in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and the continent of Westeros but in the mystical football world of Hungary.  More exact, we should call Round 24 a “Game of Ties” as all but one match resulted in a tie.  I’m not the “stat man” a la Chris,  but I would put up a bottle of Palinka that this has not happened yet this season.  Prove me wrong Chris!  The real and only winner last week were Paks and in this case there can be no dispute.  Speaking of THRONES, it seems neither Ferencváros nor Videoton are ready to run away with the throne as of yet.   Is it too late to adjust the last  match of the season to a  Ferencváros & Videoton clash like last season’s Honvéd/Videoton season ending match? In the meantime, it’s 2018,  let’s put on our seatbelts, place our seats in the upright position, turn off all electronic devices and take off to Round 25!

Chris:  Hello Paul.  To answer your inquiry, there have been four matchdays where there have been no draws, and the most amount of draws has been three in one round until round 24.  Last week there were five draws (three 1-1 draws and two goalless draws), the worst of which was probably the most anticipated match of the day – the Budapest derby – which left us with much to be desired last week in NB1. Honvéd’s Lanzafame continued to struggle in front of the goal, Haladás remained unbeaten in their new home thanks to winter-signing Michael Rabusic’s first goal at his new club, and Paks moved into third place with an impressive win over Mezőkövesd.  I’m hoping for more to unfold in round 25. 

Saturday, 7 April


Ferencváros vs Mezőkövesd

at Groupama Arena, Budapest

Paul: The derby between Ferencváros and Újpest while not resulting in any goals was literally full of fireworks as the “Ultras” were welcomed back to the match.  The atmosphere was electric with the pyrotechnics but a bit hard to see at times in the smoky air.  In a home match, I expect Fradi to bounce back and reassert themselves with a comfortable win.  Take away a 2-1 home win over Debrecen,  and Ferencváros have not scored less than 3 goals in their last five matches at home.  That trend continues along with the goal scoring of Dániel Böde.

The bubble had to burst some time for an overachieving Mezőkövesd squad.   I expected it to be this week  rather than last week against Paks. Mezőkövesd  actually have been quite good away from home in winning three of their last four matches.  Earning a point here would be a bit too much to ask of the squad.  It would be special to see István Bognár score an early goal against his former club which cast him away.  The match could be close for 60 minutes when Fradi score to seal the deal.

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-1 Mezőkövesd

Chris: Ferencváros return home where they have 10 wins and two draws in their 12 league games there thus far. They look to rebound from a tough derby draw against where they were held goalless for just the second time all season.  Fradi have won both games against Mezőkövesd this season without conceding a goal.  Thomas Doll’s side need to keep flying at home to keep the pressure on Videoton. 

Mezőkövesd are coming off their first home defeat since October when they narrowly lost to Fradi.  Attila Kuttor’s boys fought back with two late goals against Paks last week but were unable to finish their comeback attempt at the end.  In need of a win to stay out of the danger zone, they are entering the black hole of hope at Groupama.  

This should be a fairly easy three points for the hosts. 

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Mezőkövesd

 


Honvéd vs Balmazújváros

at Bozsik József Stadion, Budapest

Paul:  Rather than speak of last week’s match, I have more to say about the midweek Cup tie against Debrecen.   Honvéd allowed 3 goals but with very questionable and often comical defending.  In defense of Honvéd nothing can be said as there was not any defense.  Norbert Könyves scored a hat-trick and sends a thank you card for his late Easter basket courtesy of Honvéd’s lack of defense.  Paging Davide Lanzafame, we miss your great play and hope to see your brilliance again soon on an NB1 pitch.  Kudos to Márton Eppel who split his ear in an odd injury but managed to play on and split the defense for a goal to secure a tie against Diósgyőr.  I may criticize his play at times but his toughness is unquestioned.

Don’t count out Balmazújváros quite yet as they almost pulled off a win against Vasas.  Prior to the match, manager Ferenc Horváth said that his squad will have to play the final 10 matches as if they were in the finals of the Champions League.   The master of post match interviews,  Horváth  said opposing players seem to score the goal of the week against his squad as evidenced  last week by Máté Vida.    More importantly, Horváth is the  master at firing up his squad and me as well as I pick this match as the “upset of the week.”  

Prediction: Honvéd 1-2 Balmazújváros

Chris:  This Honvéd team is a long way from their championship season of a year ago.  Fresh off a 3-1 midweek defeat at Debrecen in the Magyar Kupa they return to the capital to face a Balmazújváros side they haven’t lost to in two games this season.   Kispest have been effective at home winning their last two but they’ve been far from dominating there.  It’s now been seven games that leading scorer Davide Lanzafame has failed to score and one has to wonder if the mercurial Italian will ever find his scoring touch again.  

In contrast Balmazújváros finished a 7-1 aggregate thrashing of Bekescsaba in the cup and finally broke their three-match league scoring drought with a goal and a draw against Vasas last week.  Balmaz are sitting bottom in the league but they aren’t playing like a bottom club.  Honvéd will need to be wary especially as they’ve conceded the second most goals at home in the league, while Balmaz have actually won more games away this season than at home.   I’m tempted to follow Paul in his delusions but I’ll stick to my gut here. 

Prediction: Honvéd 2-2 Balmazújváros


Diósgyor vs Haladás

at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Paul: It has been announced that Diósgyőr’s new stadium will open May 5th but until then the rotating home matches continue this week not in the beautiful stadium of Debrecen, but in Mezőkövesd.  Diósgyőr squandered many chances last Saturday against Honvéd including a missed penalty by Roland Ugrai .  They were also bounced out of the Hungarian Cup 0-3 against Puskás Akadémia.   This is exactly the type of match where Tamás Bódog inspires his squad to bounce back after a bad showing.  Such  will be the case once again.

Haladás played an entertaining match against against Debrecen but came away without a win for the first time in their new stadium.  Michael Rabušic played well in scoring a goal and even a David Williams sighting was reported but all for not last week.  Losing home points could be vital in the battle to stay up in NB1.  While Haladás means “progress” in Hungarian, little progress has been made in the club’s poor away form which should continue this week as well.

Prediction: Diósgyor 1-0 Haladás

Chris:  As I continue to write these previews I’ve become increasingly aware that there aren’t any teams in the league that have been consistently impressive outside of the top two.  Diósgyor fit the “unimpressive” mold as they were dispatched 3-0 by Puskás in the Magyar Kupa this week and are currently on a three-match winless run in the league.  Tamás Bódog’s frustration has reached new heights but he and his squad should be buoyed by the fact that they’ve defeated Haladás 3-0 twice already this season.  

Haladás avoided defeat at home for the fourth consecutive time last week but return to the road where they’ve lost three in a row. Hali have been abysmal in attack away from home, scoring just 8 goals in 11 games.  They are truly a different team when they’re not in front of their own fans.

Prediction: Diósgyor 2-1 Haladás


Paks vs Debrecen

at Fehérvári úti Stadion, Paks

Paul: Paks is a very difficult squad to predict as both Chris and I did not see an away win last week against  Mezőkövesd. Yet despite this unpredictably,  Aurél Csertői’s squad finds themselves in the  3rd spot and playing well.  One of the strengths of the squad is the number of players who are capable of putting the ball in the net.  In typical Paks fashion this match is what Hungarians call a 3-chances (háromesélyes) match with no result a surprise in my eyes.

Debrecen is fresh off a midweek Cup “gift” win over Honvéd.  I am very curious to see if this confidence can rub off on a very young but capable squad.  Norbert Könyves has established himself as the main  goal scorer on a club that unlike Paks does not have many goal scoring threats.  Everything in my bones calls for a Paks win but Debrecen is playing better so I see a game of ties here.

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Debrecen

Chris: Paks held on for an important three points at Mezőkövesd last week to vault into third place – an impressive position for a team that’s only finished higher than fifth just once since they entered the league twelve years ago.   Aurél Csertoi’s team can make known their intentions with a win in this one.  They’ve been successful at home recently, outscoring their opponent 8-3 with three wins and draw in that span.  

Loki are still scrambling for traction as they slide down the table.  They’ve dropped from third to fifth in the last two rounds and another defeat could see them drop into the wrong half of the table.  They played well at Haladás last week and were the first team to steal any points at Hali’s new stadium.  A midweek win over Honvéd proved that they can score against a shaky defense but Paks are used to shutting things down at home. 

Prediction:  Paks 1-1 Debrecen

  


Vasas vs Puskás Akadémia

at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest

Paul: Vasas have played a bit better of late.  Last week was the typical Vasas match, low scoring with a lot of  1 v. 1 battles.  This week should be more of the same.  Máté Vida scored a beautiful goal from over 27 meters to secure a tie against Balmazújváros.  In a nice gesture, he dedicated his goal to his brother who scored an own goal in a vital Euro U-17 Qualification loss costing Hungary a place in the tournament.

I have been a major critic of Puskás Akadémia and manager Attila Pintér but I must admit the squad have been playing better the last few weeks.  Pintér has finally drastically altered the squad from an almost all-foreign line-up to a majority Hungarian starting 11.  The results have showed in more cohesion and team work.  The recent inclusion of  László Zsidai, Balázs Balogh and András Radó in the starting 11 have positively  impacted the squad.  In another dog fight, a late goal gives Puskás a long awaited league win. 

Prediction: Vasas 0-1 Puskás

Chris: After losing five straight, Vasas are now on a modest run without defeat. Last week’s draw at Balmazújváros means they have now picked up five points in their last three games, but they are still agonizingly close to the relegation line. They continue to struggle in attack, scoring more than one goal just twice since late September (14 games).  In that stretch they’ve only kept two clean sheets and have conceded 29 goals.  

Puskás are coming off a 3-0 win over Diósgyor in the cup this week and they did a job against Videoton last Saturday with a goalless draw at Pancho Arena.  However, in the league, they are without a win in five and without an away win in their last 7 games.  Leading scorer Josip Knezevic hasn’t scored in their last 8 games. He did get one in the midweek win over DVTK, but as a team, Puskás have only scored twice in the league since the Spring season started. 

Puskás have yet to solve Vasas this season and I think their focus is now on winning the Magyar Kupa which should leave the door open for the hosts in this one. 

Prediction: Vasas 1-0 Puskás


Videoton vs Újpest

at Pancho Arena, Felcsút (TV: M4 Sport)

Paul: Videoton lost valuable points to Puskás in the manner of which last year cost them the championship.  Teams are finding the blueprint for success against Videoton  is playing 10 men back and counter attacking when possible.  In all fairness, Videoton was fortunate  not to lose last week spurred on by the strong play of goalkeeper Ádám Kovácsik.  Szabolcs Huszti was featured in the starting 11 but did not make much of an impression on me.

Back to back matches against #1 and #2  for Újpest after last weeks hard fought derby versus Ferencváros. I don’t see manager Nebojsa Vignjevic sitting back and defending with 10 men in this match.  Újpest have the talent and manager to compete with anyone in Hungary when on form.  I see this as the highest scoring match of the week.  In characteristic fashion, the Lilák will be up 2-1 playing great, only to find themselves giving up 2 goals in the last third of the match.  The torture of being a fan of Újpest continues… 

Prediction: Videoton 3-2 Újpest

Chris: Undefeated at home, Videoton look to bounce back from a disappointing draw against their co-inhabitants, Puskás last week.  Vidi still have a game in hand but need to keep winning to keep pace with frontrunners Ferencváros who are three points ahead.  Last week’s draw broke a three-match winning run, but Marko Nikolic’s side are still riding a six-game home winning streak and have dominated opponents with a league-low 8 goals conceded in 12 games there.  Even if you add the two “away” games they’ve played against Puskás they’ve only conceded 9 in 14 games.  

Újpest are coming off two goalless draws; the last of which was a very tame goalless draw against rivals Ferencváros in the derby.  Soma Novothny saved Lilák from Magyar Kupa elimination as he scored twice in the second half against MTK to send Újpest through to the semifinals on away goals.  As inspirational as that was, there has to be concern that they conceded three when they had the lead from the first leg.  

Újpest haven’t won against Videoton in their last six meetings dating back to February 2016, and you have to go all the way back to 2009 for a Lilák away win against Vidi.  Going with my head on this one.

Prediction: Videoton 2-1 Újpest