NB1 Round 1 preview

We’re back!

It’s been quite a summer and the curtain will once again be raised on the upper echelon of Hungarian football. This has mostly been a tough week for Hungarian teams in Europe as Debrecen lost to Torino and Fehérvár crashed out of the Europa League against Vaduz, while Honvéd wait on their fate after the debacle in Craiova. Ferencváros did enough against Valletta to progress to the third qualifying round of the Champions League to face Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb.

This means Ferencváros’ first round match against Debrecen and (just confirmed) second round match against ZTE will both be postponed to a later date.

Now, with all that behind us we get to the previews for round 1.

Chris: Welcome back Paul. I really can’t wait until the games get going this week. However, I hate to preview the first couple of weeks because … well … everything is so new and there are so many question marks. The amount of new faces on the pitch and in the dugout has a lot of fans hopes at high levels as each team – for once – starts on level ground. But nothing is truly known until the first ball is kicked.

Paul:  Chris, what a fast summer break it was!  I am writing this before I embark on an Alaskan cruise so I am missing out on possible late breaking events and news but no excuses.  I do like it that we have three matches on Saturday and additional two on Sunday to accommodate the clubs playing In Europe. Welcome to our two new NB1 clubs, Zalaegerszeg and Kaposvár  who are back in the first division after being relegated in 2012 and 2014, respectively. I still can’t figure out why the newly promoted squads don’t begin with home matches? I hope we enjoy an exciting season of Hungarian football.  Off we go on a wild ride to be sure!

Saturday, 3 August

Kisvárda vs Paks

Várkerti Stadion, Kisvárda

Chris: Claudiu Bumba is an exciting addition to Kisvárda, bringing talent and experience to their midfield.  So far, they’ve also managed to keep Ferencváros target Gheorghe Grozav at the club. Grozav was a big part of Kisvárda’s spring turnaround with 5 goals and 3 assists in 14 appearances.  They’ll need him to produce again because the team lost 13 goals and 7 assists worth of production after Zoltán Horváth and Brana Ilic were allowed to leave this summer. The drama around goalkeeper Felipe during the summer finally ended as he is back as the number one, but his antics have caused some irritation among the squad.  New manager Laszlo Miriuta has had a good pre-season without any injuries. Paks are another team to start the season with a new manager, bringing in Tomislav Sivic who has had two previous, less-than-stellar, stints in NB1.  Excitement is high at the club, though, as Ferencváros and NT forward Dániel Böde returned to his home club at the end of last season and provides a legitimate target inside the penalty area for Paks.   They’ve benefitted from two Puskás castoffs as well. Defender Attila Osváth is a good addition, providing even more depth at defense, and midfielder Balazs Bálogh also joined this week.

Prediction: Kisvárda 1-1 Paks

Paul:  Kisvárda were not as busy this off-season as they were prior to promotion to the NB1 last season.  The big news is a new manager in Vasile Miriuta who last worked in Hungary for Győr in the 2014-2015 season.   As usual, Kisvárda is a difficult squad to read and it will be interesting to see what stamp Miriuta has on the club.
Paks let go of one of my favorite managers in Aurél Csertői and brought back a retread in Tomislav Sivic.  Their big acquisition is the return of Dániel Böde to where he got his start in football. That in itself will be fun to watch.   He will score a goal to earn an away point in his first match for Paks.

Prediction: Kisvárda 1-1 Paks

New Kisvárda signing Claudiu Bumba in action for Adanaspor

Mezőkövesd vs Zalaegerszegi

Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Chris: The unveiling of Georgian striker Budu Zizivadze will be an exciting moment for Mezőkövesd as there’s a lot of expected of him.  Zizi is replacing last season’s leading scorer Stefan Drazic who moved on this summer.  Last year, eleven of their thirteen defeats were by one goal, and second-year manager Attila Kuttor will be looking turn some of those narrow defeats into draws. ZTE manager Barna Dobos has brought in some experience with András Radó and Oleh Holodiuk, but the impact player to watch will be new target-man Eduvie Ikoba.

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 2-1 ZTE

Paul:   Mezőkövesd had a lot of movement both in and out during the summer.  I do like their signing of Dániel Nagy from Újpest.   Mezőkövesd  has settled into a nice mid-table club and it should be interesting to see if they can leap up into the top tier of the NB1.  I see them as a hard working squad molded in the image of their manager, Attila Kuttor.
Who can forget Zalaegerszeg defeating Manchester United at home in 2002? They won the NB2 to secure promotion to the first division.  They have largely kept intact their squad from last season with very few new signings. It should be a difficult year for them and staying up in the first division would be a major accomplishment.

Prediction:  Mezőkövesd 1-0 ZTE

Újpest vs Puskás Akadémia

Illovszky Rudolf Stadium, Budapest

Chris: Lilák will be looking to continue their good pre-season form into the start of the league.  Aron Bjarnason is fairly unknown and Márk Koszta had a serviceable season for Mezőkövesd, but I’m not convinced they’re good enough to improve Újpest’s scoring woes from last season.  The heart of their rock solid defense remains and should continue to be a good unit this season. Puskas have made a number of changes and have plenty of attacking options at their disposal now.  New manager Zsolt Hornyák has singed a number of new players – the only one that looks to be  something close to an impact player is defender Thomas Meißner from Willem II. All of their new attackers appear to be risks as each seem to be looking for a fresh start.

Prediction: Újpest 1-1 Puskás

Paul:  Újpest have been very quiet in the transfer market this summer.   They unfortunately fell apart at the end of last season to lose a spot in Europe.   I see this slide continuing but with lowered expectations perhaps they will surprise.   Lacina Traoré is gone to CFR Cluj which may not be bad considering his disappointing last season.  
In contrast,  Puskás have signed a good number of players who do look very good on paper.  They are my early pick to be a surprise team this season. Of course, as we all know there is a huge difference between a squad on paper versus their actual performance.  It may be too early but this is my “upset of the week.”

Prediction:   Újpest 1-2 Puskás Akadémia

Újpest’s Szusza Ferenc Stadion upgrade means they’ll start the season at Vasas’ new digs.

Sunday, 4 August

Diósgyőr vs Honvéd

Chris: This is an important season for manager Fernando Fernández who has seen Diósgyőr escape the drop just above the line in the past two seasons.  The club made a positive move to acquire Haris Tabakovic from Debrecen.  Tabakovic had a phenomenal 17/18 season but was injured all of last year.  He’ll at least provide some competition for Florent Hasani in attack. Honvéd have had some major restructuring done to their team over the summer as their three top players headed to greener pastures.  GK Dávid Gróf, and forwards Filip Holender and Danilo are all gone.  On top of that they replaced manager Attila Supka with Giuseppe Sannino who will look to build Kispest into a team that can make a strong run for the podium.  Former Ferencváros forward Moutari Amadou is their standout acquisition, but Patrick Ikenne-King is another interesting capture as he returns to his original club.  Gróf’s replacement, Rubi Levkovich was injured against Univ. Craiova in their Europa League match on Thursday and could be out for a while.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-0 Honvéd 

Paul:   Diósgyőr once again found a way to stay up in the first division and avoid relegation.  They were quite busy in the off-season and signed Haris Tabakovic who if he returns to his Debrecen form could turn out to be a great signing.  A packed stadium and a tired opponent will equal an opening round win here.
New ownership and a new manager for Honvéd.   They still are not playing home matches as they await the completion of their new stadium.   This past week they were even forced to play in faraway Győr in their European match.   They always find themselves competing for a European spot despite my predicting otherwise.

Prediction:  Diósgyor 2-1 Honvéd

MOL Fehérvár vs Kaposvár

MOL Aréna Sóstó, Székesfehérvár

It’s been a disappointing week for Fehérvár as they fell to Vaduz in Europa League qualifying as they were unable to score in Liechtenstein. Ivan Petriak was a great addition to the side and will add to their attack.  With no big-name striker coming in, it looks like Marko Nikolic will stick with Scepovic and Futács in that role this season.  For Kaposvár they will have to measure expectations this season. It’ll be an interesting homecoming for former Vidi player Róbert Waltner who brings his newly promoted side up against his old team. He has a tight core of players including main threat Gergo Beliczky who returns to lead the attack.  It will also be interesting to see what new-signing Matej Poplatnik will be able to do since coming over from the Indian Super League this week.  I wouldn’t expect them to do much early on, however. 

Prediction: Fehérvár 3-0 Kaposvár

Paul: I once again have to learn a new team name as the squad now go by Mol Fehérvár.  Last season they got off to a slow start after finding it difficult to play matches  in the first diviison and Europa League. I don’t think they addressed their striker needs as they prefer to stock pile defenders and midfielders.  Fehérvár play the “new boys” with fatigue and the weather perhaps their biggest obstacles in this match.
Congratulations to Kaposvár on their return to the first division.   They surprised but rightfully gained promotion. I see them as having the toughest road to staying up in the first division.  They have kept their squad largely intact with few signings. Best of luck to them and we will see how they perform as admittedly I know very little about them.

Prediction:  Mol Fehérvár 2-0 Kaposvár