NB1 Round 23 preview

Another round of the Magyar Kupa is behind us and more teams are focusing on the league as only half of the NB1 clubs remain in the competition at this stage.  Read on for the latest news of each team as we head into Round 23.  Chris and Paul give you their predictions and bring you up to date on what’s unfolding throughout the league. 

Paul: Chris, we had a total of 20 goals scored in round 22.  I’m not sure the last time so many goals scored,  but unfortunately nine of those goals came in two matches.  Goal of the week goes to Obinna Nwobodo of Újpest . For me it was a very vanilla week.   I watched the Hungarian show “Gol!” to catch the highlights of the matches but couldn’t make it through all six matches.   Is it time for a break yet? Whoops we just came off winter break and another break won’t come until round 25.  Oh well and here’s hoping for a better round 23 at least in my eyes in California!

Chris: I have to say it was satisfying watching Lilák’s offense explode against Diósgyőr last week.  It’s been a long time coming and it served to cast a shadow on another result that was seemingly overlooked – Fradi’s dismantling of Puskás.   Rebrov’s side exhibited their depth as they aggressively set the pace with some dominant football.  Both ends of the table are getting interesting.  Let’s see what’s in front of us this week.

Saturday, 2 March

Puskás Akadémia vs Debrecen

at Pancho Arena, Felcsút

Paul: János Radoki has to be wondering what he has gotten himself into as the manager of Puskás  Akadémia.   They now find themselves in the relegation battle and with a real change of falling down a division.  Will their home field dominance continue?  I think not.

Debrecen came back to earth with an away loss against Paks.  Consistency is a concern with this young squad.  Speaking of consistency, they will come up with a good performance here and take the three points home back to Debrecen.

Prediction: Puskás 1-2 Debrecen

Chris: Puskás staged an unlikely comeback at Paks to overturn their first leg deficit in the cup and advanced thanks to a midweek hat trick from Liridon Latifi on Tuesday.  Puskás have been dismal in the league, however and, with János Hegedus out of the lineup this week (concussion), we had a peek at how poorly they played without their defensive anchor as they fell apart against Ferencváros.

Debrecen lost at Paks last week and followed that with an aggregate win in the cup against Ajka midweek.  They suffered another blow with winger Bódi out with an ankle injury, however, and are likely scrambling for a healthy eleven this week.

This will be a tough game for the hosts but their momentum from the cup and a return to home comforts should allow them to avoid defeat. 

Prediction: Puskás 2-2 Debrecen

Újpest vs MTK

at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest 

Paul: Újpest trounced Diósgyor by five goals and now the question is was this a fluke or sign of things to come?  We shall see.   I see the squad coming together and making a run to safety secure the third spot in NB1.  There is a lot of competition for the starting 11 and with the signing of Lacina Traoré it should be an exciting spring for the club from the fourth district.

Will MTK get up for this match?  It’s another Budapest derby but at least this time the match will be in Budapest.  Not a good sign when your starting forward, Sándor Torghelle, is 36 years old. I like him much better playing in the last 15 minutes of a match.  MTK has lost their lost two matches and four of their last five away matches.

Prediction: Újpest 2-0 MTK

Chris:  Újpest showed what they’re capable of last week in their 5-0 demolition of Diósgyőr.  Without the cup to alter their focus they are fresh and ready to keep up their good momentum.  The signing of giant forward Lacina Traoré was a bit of a surprise this week.  The former Monaco striker turned down a few clubs to join Újpest and get his career on the right track.  If he can find form this could be a game-changer for Nebosja Vignjevic’s side.   Kire Ristevski’s injury isn’t ideal for Újpest but Bojovic is a natural replacement and will likely fill in nicely without them missing a beat at the back.

MTK are also without the distraction of the cup but are coming off consecutive defeats.  They had their chances to get something out of the game against Honvéd but were dismal in front of goal including a missed pen.   Starting center back Eugene Selin left the game last week with an injury and it’s likely he will miss out this week. 

Újpest haven’t lost at home all season and have only conceded once since the winter break.  They’ll come back down to earth but still have enough to see off MTK.

Prediction: Újpest 2-1 MTK

Honvéd vs Haladás  

at Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest 

Paul: I must admit I still bear a grudge against Honvéd for their loss against a Luxembourg club in European football.  Perhaps, after seeing how well those teams played in Europe maybe I should temper my stance.   I do like their new signing, Anis Ben-Haira and with Danilo returning they should keep the three points at home.

Haladás are now out of the Hungarian Cup and the question is now what to do?  Will their manager, Ferenc Horváth, make it to the end of the season?  Even he seems at a loss for what to do?   Maybe it’s time to play their young Hungarian players in preparation for the NB2 where foreigners cannot play?

Prediction: Honvéd 3-1 Haladás

Chris: Things went from bad to worse for Haladás after last week’s narrow defeat at Vidi, they crashed out of the cup on an injury time winner for Mezőkövesd and are now truly without anything to play for.  Honvéd won last week but their play (other than goalkeeper Dávid Gróf) wouldn’t have inspired anyone.  They played to a meek 1-1 draw against lower league Duna Aszfalt in the cup to barely advance to the next round.  

Danilo is set for a return to the lineup, having played in the cup and scoring the only goal on the night.  Haladás are playing for pride here and will sneak a point … because this is NB1.

Prediction: Honvéd 0-0 Haladás

MOL Vidi vs Kisvárda 

at Sóstói Stadion, Székesfehérvár   

Paul: MOL Vidi once again looked listless in defeating Haladás.  They very nearly once again lost points to the league leaders, Ferencváros.  Mol Vidi were not tested in their midweek Cup clash and should do just enough to gain the three points in another tough match in what has become Vidi’s modus of operandi. 

Kisvárda did well to keep their unbeaten streak alive against Mezőkövesd. They have become that team that no one wants to face.  They could do anything here and even an upset victory would not surprise me.  They have become a very interesting squad in the new year.

Prediction: Vidi 1-0 Kisvárda

Chris: Vidi kept the good times rolling with a fourth consecutive win midweek against minnows Taksony in the cup.  They were less than impressive against basement dwellers Haladás last week at home with a narrow 1-0 win, however, and certain players still seem to be settling into Nikolic’s system.  Even so they are playing attacking football and finding ways to win.

Kisvárda remain unbeaten in the league (7 games) and managed a 1-1 draw against Ferencváros in the cup this week despite crashing out on aggregate.  Laszlo Dajka’s men have impressed of late and they’ve risen above their initial “ league whipping boy” status.    Stavros Tsoukalas has been a revelation and Gheorghe Grozav has brought some quality on the wing making them a formidable offensive threat. 

Vidi’s defense is good but they have been exposed this spring on occasion.  Only Loic Nego was rested in their back line this week and that might cause a problem or two.

Prediction: Vidi 2-2 Kisvárda

Mezőkövesd vs Paks

at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Paul: Mezőkövesd now find themselves five points above the relegation zone and rather than moving up the table are moving down it.  They have not been a strong home club and haven’t won since defeating Mol Vidi at home.  This will be an entertaining match and feature some goals and attacking football.

Thank you Paks for finally proving an “upset of the week” prediction correct.  They took care of business at home against Debrecen.  They have not lost in the new year and I see that continuing this week as well. 

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 2-2 Paks

Chris: Mezőkövesd got a late winner in the second leg of the cup this week sending them through in spectacular fashion over Haladás.  They will truly miss the presence of Vadnai in both defense and attack, but Lajos Bertus will be motivated to play well against his former club at his new home.

Paks are getting back Kulcsar from suspension but will be missing two other defensive stalwarts in János Szabó (injury) and Zsolt Gevay (suspension).  They also fell apart in their midweek cup match at home allowing Puskás to come back and overturn a 2-1 first leg deficit.  Look for the hosts to exact some revenge from their defeat at Paks in late October.

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 2-1 Paks

Ferencváros vs Diósgyőr

at Groupama Aréna, Budapest 

Paul:  Ferencváros finally scored some goals in their demolition of Puskás Akadémia.  They have not lost at home all season with three ties in eleven matches.  Victory here is assured the question is in a low or high scoring match.  I’ll side with the over.

Diósgyor lost their eight match non-losing streak by allowed an astonishing five goals to Újpest.  I’m not sure if they will allow five here but they will come very close.  Remember when they defeated Ferencváros at home?  

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Diósgyőr

Chris:  Last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Puskás showed just how dangerous Ferencváros’ assimilation of talent really is.  They have skill, depth, and understanding but the fans are still unhappy as they only managed a 1-1 draw midweek against Kisvárda.  They’ve won their last two home matches with a combined score of 6-0 and should be able to keep things going this week at home.  Has anyone noticed the peculiar absence of Davide Lanzafame? The mercurial target man still leads the club in scoring but doesn’t seem to be among Rebrovs favorites?

Diósgyőr manager Fernando admitted his players were playing off past results and had a letdown last week.  It remains to be seen if they’ll turn things around this week.  They’ve had a whole week off as they didn’t have a cup match this week but I think Fradi are still too strong for them at home.

Prediction:  Ferencváros 2-0 Diósgyőr