NBI Round 20 Preview

With games coming thick and fast to start the spring season the teams are having to settle in earlier and this week should be an exciting lineup of games. One very large absence this week, however, will be the Budapest derby as Újpest’s newly-laid pitch at Szusza Ferenc has been deemed unfit for the teams to play and has been postponed to a later date.

As unfortunate as that is, there are still five other games to watch on Saturday including a mouthwatering clash between second and third place in Székesfehérvár with a certain legend returning at the same time. Read on for all the ins and outs of this week’s games.

Saturday, 8 February

MOL Fehérvár vs Mezőkövesd

MOL Aréna Sóstó, Székesfehérvár (17:00)

Chris: Fehérvár got the best news they could have hoped for this week as Nemanja Nikolics returned to the club after a five-year hiatus where he won scoring titles in Poland with Legia and in the United States with Chicago.  His return is huge boost for Joan Carillo’s side who have averaged less than a goal scored per game in their last five league matches.  Fehérvár failed to kill the game off against Debrecen last week and paid for their profligacy as Debrecen leveled with a late penalty.  Right back Loïc Nego continues to miss with a calf injury which won’t help as Fehérvár look to end a run of five home games without a victory. 

Mezőkövesd came from behind to secure a draw on Tuesday to keep pace with the top teams with new signings Marin Jurina and Dino Besirovic finding the back of the net.  Besirovic has been a great addition so far and has scored in consecutive games. Regular left back Daniel Vadnai is suspended for this one after accumulating five yellow cards.  A win here will pull them ahead of Fehérvár but it will probably require more than the 1.3 goals they’ve scored on average this season.  Mezőkövesd haven’t won in their last three trips to Vidi/Fehérvár. 

Prediction: Fehérvár 2-2 Mezőkövesd

Paul: The match of the week in my humble opinion!  Makes sense as it’s a battle between two of the top sides in Hungary at the moment.  Fehérvár needed a shot in the arm after their recent lackluster play.   Perhaps Nemanja Nikolić can be that shot?  I am excited to see him play as it has been a while.  I am not sure of his fitness level or if he figures to be a part of this match.

This is a test for Mezőkövesd to see if they are ready to remain an upper echelon team in Hungary.  They catch Fehérvár at the right time as the home side has been abysmmal of late.  Mezőkövesd were hard pressed to earn a late draw last week against Újpest and had to work hard to gain that single point. Tamás Cseri almost scored the goal of the week but his shot was denied not by the keeper but the cross bar.  Last round, was it 5 of 6 matches that ended in a draw? Easy is not always the right choice, especially when predictions are involved.

Prediction: Fehérvár 1-1 Mezőkövesd

Paks vs Puskás Akadémia

Fehérvári úti Stadion, Paks (17:00)

Chris: Paks were the only midweek winners in NBI and have won their last two games against the bottom teams.  This should be a much tougher test, but they have a full squad to choose from with Bence Lenszer returning from suspension.  Forward Dániel Böde has looked much better in the last couple of games, but can he keep it up and help Paks to a third consecutive home win?

Puskas haven’t been able to separate themselves from the middle of the table with five draws and a defeat in their last six games.  The frustration has shown on the pitch as they’ve amassed 10 yellow cards and two red cards since the start of the spring season less than two weeks ago.  Kamen Hadzhiev is the latest to miss as he sits out his second game of the spring following his double yellow debacle despite his usually solid performance.  He’ll be missed.  Goalkeeper Lajos Hegedus’ equalizing goal in the final minutes of Wednesday’s game against Diósgyőr was inspirational but shows the club’s need for another scorer.  Adám Gyurcsó is still finding dangerous positions but he hasn’t scored since returning from winter break and they’ll need him to be sharp to keep Puskás’ streak of seven away games without defeat intact.

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Puskás

Paul: Paks have won four of their last five matches and are playing much improved football.  Of course, their last two matches were against fellow relegation sides but these are the matches that a team must win to stay up and avoid relegation.  Norbert Könyves is playing inspired football that recalls his glory days at Debrecen.   
Gábor Osztermajer, while a total unknown to me, is proving to be the man for the job at Paks after his recent successes as manager.

Puskás have three straight draws and now are seven points adrift of the third spot behind Mezőkövesd.  They were fortunate to earn a late draw against Diósgyőr on a questionable offside goal by goalkeeper Lajos Hegedűs.  In a match of two sides going in opposite directions, I will play the odds and call for a draw as I can’t see a Paks victory or Puskás playing up to their capabilities.

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Puskás

Kisvárda vs Kaposvár

Várkerti Stadion, Kisvárda (17:00)

Chris: Tamás Bódog returns to NBI as Kisvárda’s new manager, a couple of years after being sacked by Diósgyőr.  It appears his language skills and his experience as professional director with DVTK as well.  Kisvárda are having trouble putting the ball int the back of the net, and will need Gheorghe Grozav to start scoring again.  Grozav leads the team with 7 goals but has only scored once in their last ten league matches. Bódog will have a full squad to choose from as Bohdan Melnyk returns from suspension this week.  The big question is, “where is Anton Kravchenko?”  Easily one of the best performers in the fall, Kravchenko has only been on the bench so far since the break. 

Kaposvár looked really good for the first five minutes against Paks on Wednesday and should have scored twice in the first ten minutes, but they missed glorious opportunities and went on to fall hard against Paks – their 10th match this season without scoring.  Nothing points to any hope of a result here.

Prediction: Kisvárda 2-0 Kaposvár

Paul: Welcome back to Hungarian football, Tamás Bódog!  I think this will prove to be a great signing for a club with more than usual player and manager movement.  Bódog burnt a few bridges during his tenure at Diósgyőr but I do believe in second chances and hopefully this one will succeed for him and the club alike.  Kisvárda has lost their last two home matches but those were against the current top two NBI sides. This match should be a victory in Mr. Bódog’s home debut.

After a promising start to 2020, Kaposvár find themselves back to business as usual in losing their last two matches by a total of 5 goals.  They have won only once in nine home matches and I can’t see that form changing. Kaposvár now are 11 points from the 10th spot and the relegation hole is becoming deeper by the week.  I’m sure Chris can crunch the numbers when they are officially relegated.

Prediction: Kisvárda 3-0 Kaposvár

Honvéd vs Zalaegerszeg

Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest (17:00)

Chris: Honvéd were let off the hook against Ferencváros as they were the beneficiary of a couple of questionable calls inside the penalty box on Wednesday.  Davide Lanzafame’s return to the lineup was hardly noticed and Giuseppe Sannino’s strategy of playing for a point somehow worked.  Nasir Aliji and Eke Uzoma return to the lineup, but their biggest need is finishing their chances. Honvéd have scored just one goal in their last four games and two in their last six.

ZTE continue to play well despite not getting the results.  Eduvie Ikoba finally broke through again to earn a midweek draw but it’s not good enough for a side drifting further away from the line.  Center back David Bobál is suspended which leaves a big hole in their defense.  Bobál has been a fixture all season and that leaves the door open for János Szépe to make his second start in a row. Barna Dobos continues rotate his forwards in hopes of finding one who will claim the striker role outright.  András Radó has yet to click since the break – perhaps this will be his time.

Prediction: Honvéd 3-1 ZTE

Paul: Honvéd have not won in their last five matches and have been reeling in the New Year.   Their lack of winter activity is showing. The goals are not coming and they have turned into a staunch defensive club with little to no firepower.  Even Lanzafame has gone quiet in the goal scoring department. Are they ripe for defeat?

What has happened to Zalaegerszeg?   I am losing belief in this club in the new year.  I am making a last stand and predicting an upset victory.   This makes no sense (as do most of my predictions). “Upset of the week” for the boys of Zalaegerszeg and the start of turning their season around in an effort remain in the NBI

Prediction: Honvéd 1-2 ZTE

Diósgyőr vs Debrecen

DVTK Stadion, Miskolc (17:00)

Chris: Diósgyőr have seen a renaissance since Tamás Feczkó has taken over.  They were two minutes from starting the spring with three consecutive victories before a late leveler from ten-man Puskás stole the show.  Even so, Diósgyőr have been impressive and are arguably one of the better teams after the winter break so far.  Márk Tamás is suspended and this would be a great time for the return of Dejan Karan in their defense.  The team captain hasn’t played yet this spring after signing a contract extension over the holidays.

Debrecen’s second half equalizer against Fehérvár on Wednesday was a bit fortuitous in a back-and-forth affair at Nagyerdei Stadion.  Zoltán Vitelki has three games under his belt as the club’s new manager and hasn’t tasted defeat yet.  A month ago one might have guessed that Diósgyőr would have been their easiest opponent in the opening four matches of the spring, but that’s not the case here.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 2-1 Debrecen

Paul: Diósgyőr deserved a road victory last weekend against Puskás.  Their turnaround has been amazing.  It is a bit unusual to see them in the fifth spot in the standings but it is well earned.  This is one of the main Eastern Hungarian derbies and usually Debrecen are the favorites. In truth, there aren’t many Eastern Hungarian derbies. The easy choice is to take the home team and while that sounds a bit too easy, I shall do it.

Debrecen has played much better in the new year and that can be attributed to the return of their best player, Ádám Bódi.   Loki has a good track record against their fellow opponents from the east but a draw should be the best they could hope for in Miskolc.  More likely is a defeat from a side that is playing very, very well.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-0 Debrecen