NB1 Round 19 Preview

Hungarian football is back after a long winter’s nap.  The world has remained awake waiting, with bated breath, for the frozen pitches across Hungary to return to life under the blinding floodlights and the backing of modest crowds with passionate supporters.  Join Paul and I as we continue previewing each match along the way.  Let the spring season commence!

Paul: We’re back! … Chris, it sure has been a long break but the cold, snowy Hungarian winter sure warranted a break.   Many of the squads were abroad training in such places as Spain, Turkey and even Egypt.  Some transfers were made but not quite as many as last season.   We will see if they turn out to be good decisions.  The race for the championship is between the two top squads as we all know, with the fight for Europa Liga and NB1 survival on as well. 

Here is to a good 2019 season!

Chris: Yeah Paul it’s been quite the break, hasn’t it?  Seems like last year since we’ve seen a game … There definitely has been some turnover throughout the league while some teams have been suspiciously inactive during the transfer window so far.  With half a season remaining there’s still a lot of room for teams to find some form and shake up the table.

Saturday, 2 February

Debrecen vs Újpest

at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Paul: For Debrecen their greatest additions may be good health as the team had quite a few injuries in the Fall.  They hope to continue their fine form which found them winning their last three matches of the year.  I look to them to have a good Spring and secure a Europa League spot.

Újpest made no additions to their squad, yes you read that right.  The question is which squad will step onto the pitch as the Lilak were a very inconsistent squad in the first half of the season.  A repeat of a European spot this season would be considered a success.

Prediction: Debrecen 2-0 Újpest

Chris: Debrecen have done well to remain near the top of the table despite being saddled with a few key injuries during the fall season.  Norbert Könyves will be Loki’s biggest subtraction as he shifted to Paks over the winter.  With the imminent return of Haris Tabakovic from injury as well as club captain Dániel Toszér they should in great shape for the start of the second half.

Lilák have sat quietly during the winter.  Their only moves were offloading part-timers like Dávid Mohl and Benjamin Cseke.  Their main question will be, “can Soma Novothny return to form as their lead striker?”  Újpest have a good supporting cast for him and the team is in a good position to make a run up the table if they can find a vein of good form.  I’m not convinced. 

Prediction: Debrecen 2-1 Újpest

Ferencváros vs Honvéd

at Groupama Aréna, Budapest

Paul: Ferencváros were very busy this Winter and have improved their club.  Their hope is to build a team NOW to win the championship and achieve “Mol Vidi-like” success in Europe.  I am excited to see the fruits of their labor.

The only Budapest derby to start the new year.  Honvéd has lost several key players and have a noticeably weakened squad.  This match will begin the fall and a European place is definitely in question now.

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-1 Honvéd

Chris:  I agree with you about Honvéd, Paul.  This is a team that seems to have lost their idenity.  With the departure of Lanzafame and Eppel in the summer and now clearing house with Botond Barath, Tomas Pilik, and Patrik Hidi all exiting the club – Kispest seem worse off right now than when the winter break started.   There’s also rumors of goalkeeper Dávid Gróf leaving the club before the end of the this transfer window.  One interesting signing will be Zakaria Beglashvili who is an experienced goal-scorer on loan from FC Flora.  The 28 year-old Georgian scored 30 goals and 24 assists in 36 games in the free-scoring Estonian Premier Liga last season.  This could be a stop-gap fix to their scoring woes if he can offer any semblance of spark up front.  However, the loss of three solid defensive players will be their downfall.

Ferencváros are at it again with another cycle of new players.  This time the top signings are coming from Sergei Rebrov’s sphere of influence as he brings on three players from Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia respectively.  With a glut of quality strikers at his disposal already, Rebrov brings in BATE striker Nikolai Signevich to muddy the waters even more.  I wonder what Lanzafame is thinking … Fradi’s biggest challenge will be keeping everyone happy and finding the right chemistry to keep ahead of Vidi the rest of the way.  Honvéd should be relatively easy for them at home. 

Prediction: Ferencváros 2-0 Honvéd

MOL Vidi vs Puskás Akadémia 

at Sóstói Stadion, Székesfehérvár 

Paul: Mol Vidi can now concentrate on the NB1 following their exit from the Europa League. They made two quality signings in Ákos Elek and Márkó Futács.  A nice opening match for the defending champions to get them started off on the right foot, pun intended.

Puskás has a new manager which should be interesting as he has Hungarian roots with a German background.  I think he will be a good addition for Puskás and Hungarian football.  We shall see…

Prediction: Vidi 2-0 Puskás

Chris: Unlike free-spending Ferencváros, MOL Vidi have taken a more conservative approach this winter as they selected two proven players to bolster their squad.  Marco Futács will give them the strike option they’ve missed since Danko Lazovic’s surprise retirement midway through the fall season.  Also, the return of Hungarian international Ákos Elek will be a welcome addition that will only improve the depth and quality of a team that is ready to make a serious push to retain their crown.

Puskás’ merry-go-round of players and managers has been an entertaining show this season.  They have had successes and are a formidable foe at home, to be fair, but away from home they’ve been all sorts of awful.  Vidi will want to avenge their mid-September defeat at the hands of Puskás when they were still tenants at Pancho Arena and Marco Scepovic missed a late penalty. Revenge should be sweet for Vidi in this one.

Prediction: Vidi 3-1 Puskás

Diósgyőr vs Mezőkövesd

at Diósgyőri Stadion, Miskolc 

Paul: Diósgyor made no signings during the Winter and appear set to try to stay up with their current team.  This is always a fun  battle between the two clubs from Eastern Hungary.   In a hard fought match, a draw is the safe selection.

Mezőkövesd find themselves in the 7th spot after placing last at the same time last year.  They made a few signings this Winter but nothing of any real significance.   A mid-table showing would be a success this year for them.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-1 Mezőkövesd

Chris: Mezőkövesd are a team that I can’t help admiring this season.  They have done a lot with a little and are firmly entrenched in mid-table mediocrity … a place they would have jumped for at the start of the season.  They brought on attacking midfielder Lajos Bertus from Paks this winter which will only improve them with another experienced veteran in the middle of the park. 

Diósgyőr looked down and out at the start of the season but have shown resilience and actually pulled things together heading into the break.  Fernando has been shown patience as manager and it looks like it’s beginning to pay off.  Miskolc ended the fall season on a five-match unbeaten run with home wins against Debrecen and MTK while ending 2018 on a high note with a 2-1 win at Paks.  However, a Gabor Molnar-led Mezo is always a dangerous side and my gut is telling me they’ll start the second half with a narrow win here. 

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-2 Mezőkövesd

MTK vs Paks

at Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest

Paul: MTK ended the first half of the season poorly and has slipped to the sixth spot after a promising start.  They were quiet during the winter transfer period with no noticeable improvements.  Your guess is as good as mine to how they will do this Spring.

Paks was more active in the transfer window with their most exciting signing, Norbert Könyves. Paks tend to play to the level of their opponent so in that case this should be a hard fought and low scoring match. 

Prediction: MTK 1-1 Paks

Chris: MTK did little to improve their club during the winter, especially after receiving 1M Euros from Genoa for 19 year-old wonderkid András Schäfer.  They have done well in their first season back in the top-flight to settle into a safe, mid-table position and I think they would have taken that at the start of the season.  Veterans Jozsef Kanta and Sandor Torghelle continue to provide leadership and production while István Bognár has shown some consistent quality for the first time in a long while.

Paks did add Könyves this winter but only after shipping off the ever-present Lajos Bertus to Mezőkövesd.  Bertus had started each league game and had chipped in a goal and 5 assists for Paks in the fall.  Not sure what’s going on at Paks but this match has draw written all over it.

Prediction: MTK 1-1 Paks

Haladás vs Kisvárda

at Szombathely Haladás Stadion, Szombathely 

Paul:  A real relegation battle between our two bottom clubs.  Haladás made some good signings in the winter that could help them stay up.  I see them starting off the new year on a positive note with a home victory.

You have to give some credit to Kisvárda.  Whether they stay up or not, it will not be for lack of signing players.  They were busy this winter.  Again as at the start of the season the question is:  will all these foreign players mesh into a squad that can stay up in the first division?  

Prediction: Haladás 1-0 Kisvárda

Chris:  Yes, this is an early must-win for Haladás who already find themselves in a precarious situation with half the season remaining.  No one expected fireworks from Hali this season, but I don’t anyone were seriously tipping them for the drop either.   34 year-old Kornél Saláta will hopefully shore up a woeful defense, while bringing on Rui Pedro on loan from Ferencváros could help Tamás Priskin with quality service up front.  Even so it’s going to be an uphill battle for Ferenc Horváth’s side.

Kisvárda were the laughing stock of the league in the early weeks of the season but they’ve somehow managed to right the ship and cling to the precipice of safety near the bottom of the league. Lázsló Dajka led his side to a three-match unbeaten run at the end of the fall season.  Interestingly enough, that run mirrored their first run of form – a four match unbeaten run against the same teams (Puskás, Diósgyőr, MTK, and Haladás).  I think they’re good enough for a point here. 

Prediction:  Haladás 1-1 Kisvárda