NBI Round 22 Preview

Welcome to HungarianFootball.com’s weekly preview where Chris Barrett and Paul Treso take a look at each game and give their predictions throughout the season.

After this week’s Magyar Kupa matches, the NBI is right back at it on Saturday as they reach the two-thirds of the season mark. The Mezőkövesd vs Ferencváros prime time match looks to be the match of the week but, of course, we will look at them all.

Saturday, 22 February

Kisvárda vs Diósgyőr

Várkert Stadion, Kisvárda (17:00)

Chris: Kisvárda take a double hit this week due to suspension.  Creative midfielder Claudiu Bumba and center back Cornel Ene’s absences will weaken the team’s center.  They were outclassed in Felcsút last week and Ene’s red card made it impossible for them to get a foothold.  The biggest question is, “when will Gheorghe Grozav realize the spring season has started?”  Kisvárda’s danger-man has been suspiciously quiet despite getting into some dangerous positions – will this be the week he wakes up Kisvárda’s attack?

Diósgyőr showed they can grind out a game against Paks last week and now have just one defeat in their last five games.  Tamás Fekczó has guided Miskolc up to sixth place now after many thought they were destined for the drop back in November.  Tamás Kiss has been a great winter signing and has given them many more opportunities in the attacking third. The visitors section was sold out by DVTK supporters this week so expect a good atmosphere here.
Prediction: Kisvárda 1-2 Diósgyőr

Paul: Unfortunately this match won’t be in Diósgyőr which would make this match much more interesting in my mind at least.   Tamás Bódog faces a side that is vastly different and much more confident than the Diósgyőr squad he managed years ago.  Kisvárda has some major defensive holes which have been exposed in their last two matches.  Until they are fixed, welcome to the relegation zone boys!

Diósgyőr followed the example of the other sides of the NBI in taking care of business in the victory deparement.  They played Paks at the right time last Saturday and took advantage with a relaxing two goal victory. Their away form has been vastly improved and let’s add another away win to their achievements.  Wouldn’t it be something if this side was safe from relegation going into the final match of the season? They have become in my humble opinion (IMHO for those of you who like to save words) a solid midtable club and will remain so.

Prediction: Kisvárda 1-2 Diósgyőr

Honvéd vs Puskás Akadémia

Új Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest (17:00)

Chris: Honvéd haven’t conceded a goal in the league in their last three games and the addition of Patrik Hidi in the middle of the park has been a big part of that.  The returns of Gergo Nagy and Daniel Gazdag to the squad have bolstered a team that was already coming into form.  With Davide Lanzafame starting to score again, you have to look at Honvéd as a legitimate threat although they do seem to be heavily reliant on the Italian to produce up front.  Their cup tie against Haladás went to extra time on Wednesday and they emerged victorious but decided to field a mainly first-choice squad with Lanzafame, Aliji and Kalnoki-Kis the notables who were rested.

Two wins on the bounce for Puskás have them clinging onto fourth place.  Last week’s win over Kisvárda was quite a performance as they took the game to them even before Kisvarda were reduced to ten men.  There’s a lot at stake here as both teams are still within a shout to battle for a spot on the podium.  Puskás cruised to a 3-0 win over Bekescaba in the cup and top prospect György Komáromi scored his first goal for the senior side as Zsolt Hornyak rotated. 
Prediction: Honvéd 2-1 Puskás

Paul: Honvéd are winning the matches that they should against inferior opponents.  Of course, they are not dominating anyone by any means but three points are three points at the end of the season.  This is a battle of two sides who hope to play European football this summer. Despite missing their home stadium, the magic of Davide Lanzafame will come through on a late goal in another single goal victory.   Side note: the new stadium looks fabulous in recent photos.

Like  Honvéd, Puskás are still alive in the Hungarian Cup which offers both clubs multiple routes to possible Europa League spots.  And like their opponents, they have won their last two matches against squads they should defeat. Something has to give here, doesn’t it?   They looked better in putting three in the net against Kisvárda but the tight defense of Honvéd will tie them up in a close and hard fought match.

Prediction: Honvéd 0-2 Puskás

Kaposvár vs Újpest

Rákóczi Stadion, Kaposvár (17:00)

Chris: Kaposvár crashed out of the cup this week and are reeling in the league despite some battling performances.  Their narrow defeat against Honvéd last week wasn’t a hammering and they came close to getting something out of it.  They might see a floundering Újpest as a possibility to get some traction at home this week.

Újpest were eliminated in the cup by the slimmest of margins against Fehérvár on Wednesday, and they now have what looks like a fight against relegation to worry about in the final third of the season.  This is a must-win match for manager Nebojsa Vignjevic, but even he has doubts about his side’s ability and desire to win.  Dzenan Burekovic’s return shores up the left side, but Jonathan Heris’ suspension keeps will bring keep Kire Ristevski in the lineup but thin out his bench.  This is such a bad stretch for Lilák I can’t see them getting much out of this one.

Prediction: Kaposvár 1-1 Újpest

Paul: Can Kaposvár win this match?  Igen as against Újpest anything can happen and usually does.  Kaposvár continue to fight and play hard to make up for their talent defecit in matches.  How nice if a good number of Hungarian clubs took note of this fight and effort rather than doing the bare minimum!  Another good effort by the home team but unfortunately yet another defeat. This last sentence has become a mainstay of my  Kaposvár notes.

Újpest are out of the Hungarian Cup and find themselves losers of three of their last four matches.  The ownership is still rightly 100% behind their manager Nebojsa Vignjevic but one has to imagine Vignjevic is growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of effort of his squad.   A match against the last place side in NBI comes at the right time for the Lilak who should find a way to take the three points.

Prediction: Kaposvár 0-2 Újpest

MOL Fehérvár vs Zalaegerszeg

MOL Sóstó Aréna, Székesfehérvár (17:00)

Chris: Fehérvár fell against the league leaders last week, but rebounded to claim a hard-fought cup win against Újpest on Wednesday.   Injuries and rotation affected the side that eventually got them through to the quarterfinals, and they’ll be even more hampered against ZTE on Saturday with Akos Elek, Marko Futács, and Armin Hodzic all suspended.  Loïc Nego’s absence has been a blow for Joan Carillo’s side and it looks as if he’ll be out a little longer due to injury. 

ZTE have had a great week.  After a come-from-behind win over Újpest at the weekend, they clobbered Lipoti in the cup 5-1 to complete a second, come-from-behind victory in a week.  The addition of Ferencváros midfielder Lukas Bole as well as winter signing Fanos Katelaris have been pivotal.  David Bobal and Gergo Kocsis’ returns from suspension will also bolster the squad ahead of what should be a competitive game at Sóstó Arena. 

Prediction: Fehérvár 1-1 ZTE

Paul: Fehérvár hung around most of the match against Ferencváros but showed that they are not in the same class as Fradi.  Fehérvár, even with the added firepower of Nemanja Nikolics, seems to lack the ability to score more than multiple goals.   This should be the case here as well in a victory by a single goal. Note: my record in picking games featuring Zalaegerszeg is abysmal. 

Zalaegerszeg showed that they are not ready to concede their place in the NBI just yet and thank goodness for that.  Often times the relegation battles are the ones that I enjoy the most in the league. I may have written off this team a bit too early (sure hope this is the case as I want them in the NBI).   With their away record as evidence, a draw would be a success here but I don’t count on that happening in a league that doesn’t fancy draws.

Prediction: Fehérvár 2-1 ZTE

Paks vs Debrecen

Fehérvári úti Stadion, Paks (17:00)

Chris: Paks quietly progressed to the quarterfinals of the Magyar Kupa with a modest home win on Wednesday to finish off Pecs.  Their defeat against Diósgyőr at the weekend wasn’t as comprehensive as it looked on paper and with Daniel Böde returning to the lineup at home this could be a good time for Paks to bounce back with a win. 

Debrecen’s defense was exposed once again this season, this time by a masterful performance by Mezőkövesd.  Debrecen weren’t outplayed, just outclassed as Mezőkövesd were more efficient and held off Loki’s advances in the second half with confidence until a late consolation goal.  After a recent strong run, this could be start of a dip in form and playing at Paks at this time of year is never a good thing.

Prediction: Paks 2-1 Debrecen

Paul: As the world turns in Paks…not the name of Hungarian soap opera but life in Paks after two wins in a row  now followed by two losses. Last week, Paks were admittedly playing shorthanded in the striker department and it showed in their attack and lack thereof.  Their once impressive dominance in past years is gone so a draw would help their NBI cause ever so slightly.

After showing some nice improvement, Debrecen was brought back to Earth by Mezőkövesd.  They should play a solid match here and even a victory would not be suprising in the least.  Both sides are maddeningly inconsistent, so, rather than go out on a limb either way, I won’t!

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Debrecen

Mezőkövesd vs Ferencváros

Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd (19:30)

Chris: Mezőkövesd are looking very good heading into what has to be the match of the season for them so far.  A slightly rotated side took care of business at Kaposvár this week as Attila Kuttor’s side advanced to the quarterfinals of the cup with a 5-2 aggregate win.  The likes of Tamás Cseri and Budu Zivzivadze were rested fully and they should be feeling confident at home where they are unbeaten in their last four league games (3W, 1D). 

Ferencváros with be without two key players in forward Franck Boli and defender Eldar Civic, both of whom are suspended for yellow card accumulation.  Fradi’s narrow win over closest chasers MOL Fehérvár last week has them on the cusp of consecutive NBI titles.  They sit six point clear with two games in hand and concentrating fully on the league.  Rebrov won’t do anything foolish here, and a draw against a motivated third-place Mezőkövesd isn’t a bad result.  The two shared the points back in early November at Groupama and another stalemate might be on the cards. 

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 1-1 Ferencváros

Paul: The match of the week in yet another battle between the top sides of Hungary. Mezőkövesd has the starting eleven  to go punch for punch with the champions.  If they can get an early goal in a packed house of rabid, home fans, anything can happen.   I see a competitive match with entertaining football but a narrow defeat for the home side in the final moments of the match with a goal by….Tokmac!

Ferencváros play the Rebrov style to perfection.  Get the three points no matter what the style of play needed.  Their match last week against Fehérvár let me down so my choice to go to my monthly ukulele practice was rewarded.  I’m hoping for a more entertaining match here but will miss the match sadly as well. Thank goodness for post match highlights.   Fradi will give what is needed to defeat the home side and keep their impressive home streak intact. As Al Davis the owner of the once Oakland now Las Vegas Raiders said, “Just win baby.”

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 1-2 Ferencváros