NB1 Round 32 Preview

The picture is finally clearing as the teams approach the finish line.  With Újpest winning the Magyar Kupa this week there will be a mad dash for the final Europa League spot in the next two weeks.  We could see Videoton clinch the title this week, and we might finally sort out the complex puzzle at the other end of table as well. Surely another match day full of intense action ahead.  

Paul:  Chris, hard to believe only two weeks left in the season.  With Ferencváros drawing again, they find themselves three points behind Videoton.  Videoton holds tie breaker advantage (total wins) and one more win means they will be the champions.  Congratulations to Újpest for winning the Hungarian Cup and securing a place in Europe.  Honvéd have forged into third place by a point with a Europa League spot still up for grabs among three teams.  The relegation battle, barring any unforeseen outcomes, is down to Vasas, Balmazújváros, and Diósgyőr.  Let the predictions begin and let’s see what develops in Round 32.

Chris: Yeah it’s been another fun ride this season with plenty of drama, action and intensity.  One of the exciting things about NB1 is its propensity for surprises week in and week out.  We all had Mezőkövesd relegated in December and they’ve turned things around this spring while Vasas just couldn’t put the brakes on their descent.  It’s difficult enough to predict matches from week to week in this league, but it’s that very unpredictability that is so exciting at times. 

Sunday, 27 May

Vasas vs Haladás

at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest

Paul: Vasas have not won in their last five home matches.  They should be very offensive in this game as a result will help any chance of staying up in the first division.  A win is desperately needed but here the best they will do is a point.  

Haladás have lost their last two away matches in what should be an interesting tie against Vasas.  They are still technically in the relegation zone so a point in this match will help the cause to stay up in NB1.

Prediction: Vasas 1-1 Haladás

Chris: Michael Oenning must pull all the stops out here if Vasas are to stay up.  Bálint Gaál’s return to the lineup over the last couple of weeks should have him up to match fitness for this one and I’m predicting that he’ll play an important part.  Vasas won at home early in the season, but fell hard in Haladás’ new stadium 3-0 back in March. 

Haladás aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, and a stumble here could be costly for Michal Hipp’s side.  With only two points won out of a possible 15 in their last five, Haladás are a game away from being dragged into a nervy finish this season.  Karol Mészaros is unlikely to play after being injured last week against Újpest, but Peter Halmosi is in line for a return which should give them a boost.  Also, midfielder Lóránt Kovács should come into the squad after serving his suspension last week. 

Prediction: Vasas 2-1 Haladás

 Paks vs Balmazújváros

at Fehérvári úti, Paks

Paul:  Paks surprisingly have lost three of their last four home matches.  They face a desperate Balmazújváros squad that is hungry for points.  Paks should get back on the winning track with a decisive win here at home.

There is some life left in Balmazújváros as evidenced by their 4-0 thrashing of Debrecen.  Can they surprise again on the road?   They have lost three of their last four away matches so the odds are against them as they have been all season long.  As impressed as I was with last week’s win, the numbers are against Balmazújváros.  

Prediction: Paks 3-1 Balmazújváros

Chris:  Unfortunately for Balmazújváros their time is running out.  They were impressive at home last week, hitting sinking Debrecen for four in front of over 1,800 of their faithful support but this week’s challenge comes against a team that is still fighting for a spot on the podium.  They are without a win over their last six away matches and will have to pull out a masterful performance to get anything here. 

Paks have been hot and cold all season long but they are still within a shout of Europa League qualification.  Aurel Csertoi’s team was held goalless for the first time in seven games against Diósgyor last week, falling (ironically) to an unfortunate own-goal by their own top scorer László Bartha.  They will be hungry.  In fact, it will be two wolves fighting over the same carcass. 

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Balmazújváros

Debrecen vs Puskás Akadémia

at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Paul: Debrecen were very flat in a big loss to Balmazújváros.  They catch Puskás at the right time and should take care of business here and secure the three points.  They should do just enough and win by a goal.  A spot in the Europa Liga is still possible and should be great motivation for this overachieving squad.

Does Puskás have anything left in the tank after their exciting Cup match against Újpest?  I have to give them credit for their spirited effort against the Lilak.  With a Europa League spot not in the cards, I see a tired effort from Puskás.   The season has been a great success with staying up in the NB1 and coming close to a Hungarian Cup.

Prediction: Debrecen 2-1 Puskás

Chris:  The look on Attila Pintér’s face at the end of the Magyar Kupa final said it all as ambition turned to disappointment after Filip Pajovic’s save on János Hegedus.  It was the Academy’s last best chance to go from promotion to Europe but they fell short at the final hurdle.  Now Puskás have an outside shot of obtaining third place but the stars must align perfectly and it starts by winning a tough game in Debrecen. 

Debrecen’s turnaround over the last few weeks hit a brick wall at Balmazújváros last week but they can keep pace for a final match-day showdown if they can get maximum points at home here.  Haris Tabakovic was silenced for the first time last week after a torrid stretch six goals in his previous three matches.  It will be interesting to see if they can bounce back against a team that has to be low on confidence and fuel. Winger Aleksandar Jovanovic’s ankle injury has him out for the season, as Andras Herczeg’s injury woes continue.

Prediction: Debrecen 2-2 Puskás

Mezőkövesd vs Újpest

at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Paul: With three straight wins, Mezőkövesd have taken themselves out of the relegation zone.  They catch a Cup hungover Újpest squad at the right time and find their way to their fourth win in a row.  Not an exciting match but a win in the typical Mezőkövesd style. 

Újpest gave 110% and achieved their goal in winning the Hungarian Cup.  Does securing the 3rd place spot mean anything at this point?  Nebojsa Vignjević would justified in giving rest to several players and going with a fresh team.  What’s the worst that can happen?

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 1-0 Újpest

Chris: It was mission-accomplished for Nebojsa Vignjevic and his Lilák boys this week as they achieved their goal of getting back into Europe after a prolonged absence.  They are basking in the glow of their accomplishment this week but won’t forget Márk Koszta’s late brace in a 3-2 defeat against Mezőkövesd back in early March at Szusza Ferenc. It’s possible they will put some players in the shop window in the last two weeks of the season but that should field some hungry players. Donát Zsótér’s magnificent goal in the final was his second in two games and his stock has truly risen this season.  

Mezőkövesd aren’t mathematically safe so they won’t be sitting back in their final home match.   With three wins on the trot, Attila Kuttor’s squad will look to carry their momentum to an important three points if they have anything to say about it.  

I think this will be an entertaining match between a relaxed Újpest and a motivated Mezőkövesd.

Prediction:  Mezőkövesd 2-2 Újpest

Ferencváros vs Diósgyor 

at Groupama Arena, Budapest

Paul: After being in the driver’s seat, Ferencváros have drawn the last three weeks.  They  have seriously hampered their title hopes.  Now they must win both of their final matches and hope.  They must hope for a Vidi mistake somewhere  and win their final three matches.  I still believe Ferencváros are the best Hungarian team but last season the best team didn’t win either.  They win here and the excitement builds up in the chase for #1.

Diósgyőr took care of business at home with a nice victory over Paks.  Things get harder the next two weeks and every point counts.  I see a good effort here but Fradi are too tough at home and Diósgyőr lack the firepower to keep up in bright lights of the Groupama Arena. 

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Diósgyor

Chris: Will Diósgyor’s safety be the sacrificial lamb for Ferencváros’ shot at the title?  The simple answer is yes.  Fernando’s side managed to hold off Paks last week on the strength of an own-goal meaning they’ve only scored one goal in their last five matches.  

Fradi are in rampage mode and they should at least repeat their home victory over DVTK back in September.  It’s all or nothing here for Thomas Doll’s champion hopes and they’ll put the pressure on Videoton after it’s all said and done. 

Prediction: Ferencváros 2-0 Diósgyor

Videoton vs Honvéd

at Pancho Arena, Felcsút 

Paul: Videoton have only drawn at home once in their last five home matches.  A win here secures the title.  This will be a hard fought entertaining match.  The title will be decided in the last match of the season just like last year.

Minus a home blip against Debrecen, Honvéd have improved their play lately.  Of course, this coincides with the improved play of  Davide Lanzafame.  Honvéd will make things difficult for Videoton with the masterful Lanzafame baffling the Videoton defense.

Prediction: Videoton 2-2 Honvéd

Chris: Honvéd stepped up big time last week to put a huge dent in Ferencváros’ title hopes.  With no hope of retaining their title, Kispest can play spoilers again this week by cutting Videoton down to size as well.  That will be a huge ask, however, as Videoton’s dominant home form has been a hallmark this season in NB1.  

This is the second season in a row where this fixture will loom large in deciding the champions.  

Videoton have conceded just two goal in their last ten league matches and none in their last five home matches. Marko Nikolic will have a rested Danko Lazovic and Marko Scepovic this week, but I think the chaos that is the Hungarian top flight will have its say and push the title decider to the final week.

Prediction: Videoton 0-0 Honvéd (don’t shoot the messenger)