NB1 Round 1 Preview

With the golden foil of the World Cup Final all swept away and the memories of the best football talent the world has to offer on display in the rearview mirror we look forward to the blooming of domestic leagues throughout Europe waking from their brief early-summer slumber.  Champions League and Europa League qualifiers have whetted our appetite in recent week, but now we are merely hours away from the start of the new NB1 season.  Chris Barrett and Paul Treso are back this season to predict each match once again.

Paul: Chris, I can’t believe the 2018-2019 season is about to begin.  I was taken aback and still thought we had some time to sort things out so I will hurriedly write this up today, Monday, before I’m off to vacation.  We are about to begin our first FULL season with our column after picking up part way through last season.  Many transfers have occurred so far (transfer time lasts until late August, I believe)  and we will see if they turn out to pay off or not?  We must say goodbye to Vasas and Balmazújváros and hello to MTK and Kisvárda.  With that said, it’s an early start to Hungarian football once again with promises of warm weather and teams that perhaps aren’t ready to begin the season as evidenced by the play of Hungarian teams in European football so far.

Chris: Yes Paul, we welcome MTK back to the league after a year’s absence and Kisvárda after a much longer one.  Honvéd and Újpest moved on with impressive second legs in the Champions League and Europa League respectively, while Ferencváros were handed a tougher first qualifying round and were dumped out of Europe before the start of the season.  Now that we’re all caught up let’s get on to this week’s matches.

Saturday, 21 July

Puskás Akadémia vs Debrecen

at Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Paul: One less reason to dislike Puskás with manager, Attila Pintér departed.  I’m not quite sure why he left without a new job in hand, but look for him to resurface at some point in the season with a struggling club.  With a manager from the past back in Miklós Bencés, who knows what to expect with this club.

It was a tale of two halves last season for Debrecen and this season should  be somewhere between the two.   Already a big blow for the club with a knee injury to Haris Tabokovic who last season was a prolific goal scorer.

Prediction: Puskás 1-1 Debrecen

Chris: Puskás also have those spiffy new kits with the wing or the flame on them.  Either way they’re not the same team that ended last season.  Gone, of course, is Pintér as well as another polarizing figure in forward Ezekiel Henty who is on loan to Croatian side NK Osijek.  They brought in former Balmaz striker Bachana Arabuli, and Vidi right back Roland Szolnoki.  Last season Puskás was a team with a lot of talent and little direction.  They were unable to gel the squad and, despite staying up, it was a frustrating season for the Academy.  After finishing sixth it was obvious they were missing an out-an-out striker who could score with any consistency.  

Debrecen’s horrible second half of their season cost them a chance to play in Europe. Over the summer they said goodbye to Tibor Tisza (retired), and raided Balmazújváros for Attila Haris and signed former Haladas winger Ezequiel Calvente. With Loki adding little to their porous defense, I think Puskás will win out at home. 

Prediction: Puskás 2-1 Debrecen

Honvéd vs Haladas

at Bozsik József Stadion, Budapest

Paul:  Big losses of course for Honvéd with the departure  of their strike force.  They are in position to move on in Europe perhaps  but goals will be a problem this season unless reliable strikers will be found soon.

Haladás improved during the second half of the season with the addition of a new manager and a new stadium.  I look for this to continue against a toothless Honvéd club playing their second match of the week.  Can this be called an upset?  

Prediction: Honvéd 0-1 Haladas

Chris:  Honvéd impressed midweek, overturning a 2-1 first leg deficit against Rabotnički in the Europa League, with a 4-0 win at home behind closed doors.  It was a fabulous result and highlighted the cool finishing abilities of Filip Holender. The departure of both Márton Eppel and Davide Lanzafame have left a huge hole up front with Danilo now being their main target man as no replacements have been added as yet.

Haladas did well to bring in veteran striker Tamas Priskin on loan from Ferencváros and Emil Lyng on a free transfer this summer.  Priskin addresses the need for a clinical presence up front and Lyng will add depth and experience as a support striker – two things Hali needed as the joint-lowest scoring team in the league.

Prediction: Honvéd 2-2 Haladas

MOL Vidi FC vs Kisvárda

at Pancho Arena, Felcsút

Paul: A new name for the defending champions which bothered many supporters.  I have no idea if Videoton are still in business.  On a side note, I remember my grandmother having a Videoton TV in the 80s.  Why not call the team Mol Székesfehérvár since while sponsors may change, hopefully cities do not?  Despite playing earlier in the week, a tough win against one of the newly promoted clubs.

I’d really like to see a rule where the promoted clubs have a home match for their first match of the new season.  Capitalize on that excitement!.  A new first time team to the NB1, welcome to Kisvárda and manager Elemer Kondas back to the first division after years in Debrecen.  They have added a flurry of foreign players to the club but staying up in the first division will be a season long battle.

Prediction: MOL Vidi 2-1 Kisvárda

Chris:  Vidi kept their core of their championship-winning squad while increasing the quality of their left side with the additions of Loki’s Bence Sós and Vasas’ Silveszter Hangya.  They looked good in their Champions League first qualifying round home leg where they took care of Luxembourg side F91 Dudelange with a 2-1 win at Pancho Aréna.  They don’t look like they missed a beat during the summer break and that’s not good news for the rest of the league.

Kisvárda will be greeted harshly in their opening NB1 match this season.  With a whopping 17 foreign players and a heavily Ukrainian roster, Elemér Kondas’ side will hope to get off on the right foot.  With so many changes over the summer I think it will take some time.

Prediction: MOL Vidi 2-0 Kisvárda

Mezőkövesd vs Paks

at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Paul: Congratulations to Mezőkövesd for proving me wrong and avoiding relegation.  I still see them as contenders for relegation this season after not strengthening the squad much at all.  These are the types of matches they must bring home the three points to stay up in the first division. 

Paks are coming off of a successful season but in typical fashion have been quiet on the transfer market.  They will look to overachieve once again and will surprise the top clubs a few times but are a mid-table club at best.

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 2-2 Paks

Chris: After three years with Paks, Dénes Szakály transferred to Mezőkövesd this summer.  The solid attacking midfielder scored four goal and was a mainstay in Aurél Csertoi’s center but he’ll be starting off his season against his former club.  Attila Kuttor dropped some dead weight and added some depth in midfield with Balmaz’s Sándor Vajda and Puskás’ Patrick Mevoungou strengthening the spine of their lineup.

Paks went a different route, dropping their number one and two goalkeepers and nabbing Gergely Nagy from Vasas.  With little movement on the transfer front we shouldn’t see a whole lot more than a strong, mid-table team that are tough to play at home.

Prediction:  Mezőkövesd 1-2 Paks


Sunday, 22 July

Ferencváros vs Diósgyőr

at Groupama Arena, Budapest

Paul: Ferencváros played a very entertaining match last week only to tie their Israeli opponents on a deflected goal.  They seem to have this type of bad luck in Europe.  Despite this weeks result (I’m predicting an upset win), they will continue their nearly perfect home form of last season.

Diósgyőr should have been relegated last season and were very, very lucky to stay up  in the first division.  They did well to keep their Spanish coach which is a plus but other than that very little has been done to improve the club from last season. 

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Diósgyőr

Chris: Thomas Doll’s side played admirably in their Europa League tie with Hapoel Beer Sheva, but a late goal conceded at home all but ended their campaign.  Hapoel’s win at home this week cemented Fradi’s exit in Europe and they can now fully turn their attention to domestic matters.  Last season’s runners up loaded their side with foreign talent over the summer in hopes of a longer European campaign and (one would think) to re-claim the NB1 title.  Poaching last season’s league-leading scorer from Honvéd – Davide Lanzafame, and exciting Argentine attacking midfielder Matiás Rodríguez, there was hope that they wouldn’t miss the quality of Joseph Paintsil as much but that will remain to be seen.

Diósgyor escaped relegation on goal difference and we haven’t seen much movement in improving the squad if any.  DVTK were dreadful away from home last season, winning just 3 of 17 matches.  That trend shouldn’t change this week.

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Diósgyőr

Újpest vs MTK Budapest

at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest 

Paul: Újpest did not improve their team one iota during the offseason and it showed  in a big loss in their return to Europe.  Excuses came forward such as a low quality airplane, flight times etc.  Not a good start to a new season at all.  Will Vignjevic stay the whole season as he is a very good manager who deserves a better chance at success?

MTK dominated in the second division to quickly ensure their promotion to the first division.  Now with the addition of foreign players allowed, they should be a stable first division club.  They will catch the Lilak in a great position to secure another upset if we can call it that.

Prediction: Újpest 1-2 MTK

Chris: I was impressed with Újpest’s 4-0 win over Azerbaijan side Neftçi Baku to overturn a first leg defeat in the Euorpa League this week.  We saw some amazing goals from unlikely sources including a wicked shot from distance from Bojan Sankovic who didn’t score a goal all last season.  Perhaps Lilák are finally coming together as a team – they looked very impressive and if that’s just a hint of what’s to come then keep an eye on them this season. 

They’ll take on MTK who are right back into the NB1 after winning the NB2 title last season.  Filling their ranks with the likes of István Bognar, Ádám Pintér, and Patrick Ikenne-King this summer will only give manager Tamás Feczkó more quality in which to keep his team up this season – a goal that looks very attainable for MTK. 

Prediction: Újpest 2-2 MTK