NB1 Round 29 Preview

Welcome back to the most exciting league football league Europe has to offer!  Think we’re crazy?  Just stick around awhile.  The drama and season-long competitiveness of NB1’s smaller, 12-team league has produced some memorable games and and stoked some heated rivalries.  As we head into final act every team has their part to play.  With so much still up for grabs and a revived Haladás rising from the dead and climbing into the fray from the bottom of the muck – this week has all the tension of a Walking Dead finale.  Join us as we plunder the riches of this glorious league with six matches on Saturday – all the team news and predictions are below.  Enjoy! 

Paul: Chris, the season (like life) has gone by much too fast.  It’s hard to believe there are only five match days left in the season.  The excitement appears to be the in the relegation battle.    It could be two of any five clubs who could go down next year.   The battle for European spots is a bit crazy at the moment with the added element of the Hungarian Cup winner as yet to be determined.  The marquee matchup of the week, Ferencváros against Mol Vidi, has lost a bit of its luster but should feature some good quality football (we hope).  Round 29, let’s do this!.

Chris: Yeah Paul, I think we’re all feeling the tension of the stretch run but that’s what makes this time of the year so great.  Ferencváros are sizing up their crown as we speak, but a slip up on Saturday could create a frenetic last few weeks at both ends of the ladder.  There are three big games in the capital this week which should provide a festive atmosphere all around the city.  It looks like we are on the same wavelength for the majority of this week’s games. On to the matchups!

Saturday, 20 April

Puskás Akadémia vs Mezőkövesd 

at Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Paul: Puskás were once a very good home squad which made them a mid-table team and kept them out of the relegation zone.  That is no longer true and they are very much in the relegation battle.  I don’t often predict scoreless matches if at all, so a scoreless draw let it be.

Mezőkövesd gave Fradi a good battle before losing by a goal which could have rattled the standings a bit.  This week finds them away at Pancho Arena.  They have lost their last three away matches which makes it very difficult to predict a win here.   I will play it safe and call for a draw.

Prediction: Puskás 0-0 Mezőkövesd – 17-2 with Unibet (Draw 11/5)

Chris: András Komjáti’s first game in the dugout for Puskás was a measured success as they got a lucky away point at Paks without the serivces of three suspended players.  Winger Bence Sós, leading scorer Josip Knezevic, and team skipper Roland Szolnoki all return to the lineup this week.  Pancho Aréna is where they’ve found the lion’s share of their success and I’m certain Komjáti has made it clear that relegation is not an option.  Center back János Hegedus should be back to full fitness which will make things more difficult for the visitors.

Mezőkövesd played well last week but they were eventually overwhelmed by the talented front-runners.  They are one win away from realistically assuring another season in NB1, but their current form doesn’t inspire – they’ve lost their last three away, scoring just once in that span.  Attila Kuttor felt his team could have gotten more against Ferencváros last week but, quite frankly, they caught Rebrov’s side on a bad day and couldn’t secure a point at home. I can see Puskás doing what they do so well this time of year – confounding logic to secure safety.

Prediction: Puskás 2-1 Mezőkövesd – 7-1 with Unibet (Puskás win 17/20)

Kispest captain Kamber not available against Újpest

Újpest vs Honvéd

at Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest 

Paul: Újpest played a respectable match against Mol Vidi in losing by a goal. Now they are at home where they are very strong.  The only Budapest derby of the week should mean a great atmosphere as both clubs have strong followings.  A narrow win by a goal in a hard fought match for the Lilák. I see Újpest making it to Europe even with so many variables left in the season.

Honvéd lost a chance to gain some ground in their quest for European football.  They are nearing the point where they must win the Hungarian Cup for a Euro spot. Honvéd play another squad above them in the standings and a win is a must.  Unfortunately,  they are a club with quite poor recent away form which is putting it mildly as they have lost four of their last five matches away.

Prediction: Újpest 2-1 Honvéd – 17/2 with 888 Sport (Újpest win 6/5)

Chris: Obinna Nwobodo’s absence hampered the Újpest offense last week and Lacina Traoré looked frustrated and slow in attack.  With starting left back Dzenan Burekovic suspended this week it weakens the normally watertight Újpest defense.  Against a better offensive threat that might be a problem, but Honvéd haven’t been prolific by any stretch.

Honvéd have problems of their own as manager Attila Supka continues his three-match ban while captain Djordje Kamber will sit this one out due to accumulated yellow cards.  They’re also currently in the semifinals of the Magyar Kupa and labored a to a 2-1 victory against second-tier side Soroksar at home in the first leg this week.  The second leg is scheduled for next week and they’re certain to have an eye on that match as it is probably their more realistic route to continental football in the summer.

These two played to draws in their first two meetings this season, but with Honvéd having to juggle their squad I think Újpest continues their unbeaten run at home.

Prediction: Újpest 2-1 Honvéd – 17/2 with 888 Sport (Újpest win 6/5)

MTK vs Kisvárda  

at Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest 

Paul: Another match meant another loss for MTK last week which makes them losers of four of their last five matches.  They appear to be playing out the season with no focus or motivation.  I see that continuing this week as lately it appears to make no difference if their matches are home or away.

Kisvárda lost a big opportunity to put some distance between themselves and Diósgyor.  They are still only a point ahead of them to stay up in the NB1.  This match should come down to the team that is hungrier and more motivated so with that said, this is my “upset of the week.”

Prediction: MTK 1-2 Kisvárda – 11/1 with Betfair (Kisvárda win 7/2)

Chris: MTK had to play with a number of players recovering from a stomach illness last week and it showed as they ran out of gas quickly in a narrow defeat at Haladás.  They have narrowly lost both meetings this season against Kisvárda, and they have lost four of their last five and have won only one in their last eight.  

Kisvárda have picked up four points in their last two and they’re a much-improved side from the dire team that struggled through the autumn.  They’ll be without their only true left back Rados Protic who is suspended for this match.  They’re only other left back, Anderson Pico underwent surgery a couple of weeks ago and is back home in Brazil to recuperate.  László Dajka’s team is in survival mode right now and a point is important at this stage. 

Prediction: MTK 1-1 Kisvárda – 9/2 with Betfair (Draw 5/2)

Diósgyőr vs Paks

at Diósgyőri Stadion, Miskolc   

Paul: Diósgyor lost their last home match against the suddenly resurgent Haladás.  Taking three points at winnable home clashes such as this one are vital if they hope to stay up in NB1. I see Fernando rallying his squad to gain these vital three home points.

I am losing my faith in Paks after their scoreless draw against lowly Puskás last week.  I would never have guessed them to be in the relegation zone and yet here they are right in it.  They have lost their last three away matches and this next loss will make the final four weeks of the season something that Paks fans haven’t experienced in a while- the relegation battle.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-0 Paks – 6/1 with Royal Panda ( Diósgyőr win 129/100)

Chris: Diósgyőr need a win in the worst way and this might be their best shot in a while.  They have lost just once at home in their last eight and should feel confident to break their four-game winless run.  Their main problem has been generating offense.  Leading scorer Florent Hasani hasn’t scored in four games and in that span they’ve only managed to find the back of the net twice.  Dusan Brkovic has been an ironman in Fernando’s back line logging almost 2300 minutes this season.  The Serbian has been a major factor in keeping the opposition shut down.

Paks are a team who have been riddled with injuries and suspensions and haven’t won since February.  They’ve lost their last three away from home and, despite having two players return to the side after suspension (Simon and Könyves), they will have to do without two center backs (Lenzsér and Fejes) weakening an already paper-thin defense with Dávid Kulcsár and Zsolt Gevay on the long-term injury list. 

Paks felt they should have won last week in Felcsút but a good goal was chalked off in what appeared to be wrong offside call. They’re spiraling and hoping for a point here.  They won’t get it.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-0 Paks – 6/1 with Royal Panda (Diósgyőr win 129/100)

Bálint Gaál’s late winner against MTK miraculously put Haladás back in the fight for survival.

Debrecen vs Haladás 

at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen 

Paul: Debrecen did well to earn a draw against Honvéd in the continuing battle for Europe.  This may be one of the most wide open matches as any of the three possible results would not surprise me the least.  Debrecen have won their last four home matches but I can’t quite see them pulling off five in a row.

Quick, which squad is the playing the third best football right now in the NB1?  A month ago no one would have said Haladás.   I  have no idea what their manager Ferenc Horváth has told his team but every Hungarian squad should find out and bottle it!  I am now a believer in the squad from Szombathely! 

Prediction: Debrecen 2-2 Haladás – 12/1 with SportNation (Draw 5/2)

Chris: Debrecen are still in the hunt for third place and are also in the midst of a semifinal against MOL Vidi in the Magyar Kupa.  They played a nearly full-strength side against Vidi in the first leg this week and will be looking ahead to next week’s second leg at home.  

I laughed out loud when I saw Haladás supporters wearing surgical masks in last week’s game against ill-stricken MTK.  The whole club seems to be in a good mood and it’s coming from the results on the pitch.  Because of Loki’s fixture congestion it’s a good time for Haladás to play them as Horváth’s side have been on fire, winning five of their last six games.  The rise of former Ferencváros midfielder Rui Pedro has given Haladás some real quality in attack and he’s actually improved the performances of fellow attackers Galin Ivanov and Reagy Ofusu in recent weeks.  I’m confident they can keep the good times rolling here despite the long trip.  My heart says a win for the basement dwellers but a draw seems more likely. 

Prediction: Debrecen 2-2 Haladás – 12/1 with SportNation (Draw 5/2)

Marko Futács scores the winner against Lilák to keep Vidi’s slim title hopes alive.

Ferencváros vs MOL Vidi 

at Groupama Aréna, Budapest   

Paul: Fradi came close to losing their match last week which would have made this match a bit more important.  Now with Ferencváros on top of the league by eight points this match does not quite have the luster I had hoped for back at the start of the second half of the season.  Ferencváros have been nearly unbeatable at home and I don’t see that ending this week.

Mol Vidi played a match mid-week defeating Debrecen in the first leg of the semi-finals of the Hungarian Cup.  The points lost in the first half of the season during the European campaign proved to be too much to make up.  They have played very well against Fradi in the league and the Hungarian Cup but a loss here most assuredly stamps their spot in the Europa Liga next season which we hope is exciting as the last.

Prediction: Ferencváros 2-1 Vidi – 7-1 with Unibet (Ferencváros win 17/20)

Chris:  This is the big one this week.  Ferencváros will be looking to exact revenge from their last meeting, a 2-1 bruising defeat in Székesfehérvár just before the winter break that left a few casualties on the pitch.  They will have a fresh and motivated Davide Lanzafame returning to the lineup this week after his internal suspension was served last week.  Sergei Rebrov appears to have his team cantering to the finish line and this would be the final nail in the coffin for their closest challengers.  They’re the only team that has remained undefeated at home this season and keeping that record intact against Vidi would put an exclamation point on an impressive domestic season.

Vidi have labored to keep pace with Fradi in the league and then struggled to hold onto a slim, first-leg victory over Debrecen in the cup this week.  The loss of Marko Scepovic has been felt, and attacking midfielder Georgi Milanov will likely join him on the injured list leaving this week Marko Nikolic with fewer attack options.  Marko Futács scored in the league and the cup this past week.  Perhaps his time has come to make an impact.  Nah.

Prediction:  Ferencváros 3-1 Vidi – 13-1 with Unibet (Ferencváros win 17/20)