NBI round 4 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. Read on for all the latest news for each contest this week.

Paul:  Chris, we had a total of 19 goals scored in round 3 which was the first round of the NBI season to feature all twelve sides in action.  Home sides were back to dominance with only Kisvárda scoring an away win. Round 4 should be full of surprises and as we know anything can and will happen.  Let us move on to the madness of what is the Hungarian first division.

Chris: Who would have thought that Mezőkövesd would be undefeated along with Fehérvár at the top of the league with Honvéd flat on their face in the basement? I'm also quite impressed with ZTE so far as they have played some good football despite two defeats and now have brought in Zoltán Stieber to the league. Things just keep getting better and better in this league.

Saturday, 24 August

Diósgyőr vs Mezőkövesd

Diósgyőri Stadion, Miskolc

Chris: Diósgyőr scored first against Fehérvár last week but after Dusan Brkovic was sent off they were buried under an avalanche of goals, eventually losing 5-1 - their biggest defeat since a 7-0 loss against Ferencváros in March.  With center back Brkovic unavailable after his red card last week Fernando will give Yannick Ndzoumou his debut.  How can I be so sure?  Because Fernando unveiled his lineup after accusing Mezőkövesd of spying on his training sessions this week. 

Mezőkövesd have made a perfect start to the season their defense has been solid.  Tamás Cseri’s goal last week was his second in two games and the addition of Tamás Tákacs to their attack only gives them more depth.  Tákacs scored six goals for Loki last season.  Attila Kuttor’s side weren’t dominant by any stretch against Puskás last week but still managed a win after they neutralized Henty and Vanacek.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-2 Mezőkövesd

Paul:  Diósgyőr was happy to leave Székesfehérvár after surrendering five goals to the home side.  They will look to put that embarrassing loss behind them with a derby against their Eastern Hungarian rivals.  The stadium should be full as Mezőkövesd fans should travel for this match.  This will be a defensive battle with very little offense on either side.

Mezőkövesd have made a believer of me after opening the season with three wins.  They are proving to be a tough defensive side as each victory so far has been by a goal.  Attila Kuttor, who was born in Miskolc,  has molded the club in his image as he was a gritty defensive player in his day.  Miskolc is a very difficult place to play and a draw would be a good result here.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-1 Mezőkövesd


Honvéd vs Debrecen

Uj Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest

Chris: Alarm bells are going off at Honvéd after three straight defeats to start the season.  Last week’s defeat against Kisvárda came without suspended Bence Batik in defense and horrible season debut by goalkeeper András Horváth. Giuseppe Sannino has his man now in Davide Lanzafame, and some injured midfielders are returning to the side.  Änis Ben-Hatira’s late appearance last week was encouraging as he will bring a level of quality and competitiveness to the side, but Sannino’s insistence to keep Moutari Amadou on the bench has me perplexed. 

Debrecen look very capable in the scoring department but they have looked a little vulnerable at the back.  Their high-octane offense against Honvéd’s shaky backline and goalkeeper situation should provide them with some opportunities, but this will be their first game away from home and (quite possibly) their first test of the season with Lanzafame looking to inspire.

Prediction: Honvéd 2-2 Debrecen

Paul:   Honvéd have started the season with three loses.  One has to think that should this continue (and I believe it will) Giuseppe Sannino will be the first manager fired this season.  Despite adding Daniel Lanzafame for his third go around, Honvéd may be in for a long season. There still is some time to add some quality players to the squad before the transfer deadline.

The first away match for Debrecen after opening the season with two home victories.  Debrecen is proving to be a very good attacking team but must shore up the defense as they very challenged in narrowly defeating  Zalaegerszeg. Sandor Nagy continues to be a stalwart in the Debrecen goal. They catch Honvéd at the right time and they will leave Budapest with a win further adding to the woes of Honvéd.

Prediction:  Honvéd 1-2 Debrecen


Kaposvár vs Zalaegeszeg

Rákóczi Stadion, Kaposvár

Chris: Kaposvár are finding life in NBI difficult after losing their first three games.  Last week’s 1-0 defeat against Ferencváros should have been much worse as the champions ran rampant and failed to take advantage of numerous scoring opportunities against last season’s runners-up in NBII.   

ZTE have lost each of their first two games of the season, but their performances in both games have been outstanding for a newly-promoted club and they easily could have gotten in a result in either.  With 26-times capped Zoltán Stieber coming into the team they inject quality into their attack. ZTE lost to Kaposvár both times last season but they seem to have adjusted to the top flight better with the additions of Krisztián Tamás and András Radó.

Prediction: Kaposvár 1-2 ZTE

Paul:  A battle of the two new clubs in NB1.   At least one side will leave Kaposvár will a point on the positive side.  Kaposvár gave the Ferencváros “B” squad a difficult match and at home no club will have an easy time in any match in Kaposvár.   With that said, I will go with the home side for their first win of the new season

Zalaegerszeg plays their third straight away match of the season.   Very unfair for any club, let alone a new side to the NBI. They gave Debrecen a very tough match and should have come away with a draw.  They could easily win this match but the home side will be very motivated. Perhaps the most goals of the week in this match.

Prediction:   Kaposvár 4-2 Zalaegerszeg


Kisvárda vs Újpest

Várkert Stadion, Kisvárda

Chris: Kisvárda are looking like a dangerous team.  Felipe returned between the sticks last week and Gheorghe Grozav continues to look like one of the more dangerous attacking players in the league.  They return home after spanking Kispest last week in Budapest with some momentum behind them.  Defender Anton Kravchenko will miss out again due to injury, but Cornel Ene replaced him in style by scoring the first goal against Honvéd. 

Újpest are struggling a bit despite collected four points after three games.  Last week’s draw against Paks could have been a win if not for a goalkeeping error by Filip Pajovic.  With captain Robert Litauszki injured, Nebojsa Vignjevic will have another problem on his hands. Lilák are operating without a proper striker and it’s been source of frustration.

Prediction: Kisvárda 2-1 Újpest 

Paul:  Kisvárda erupted for three away goals last week against Honvéd.  Of course, Újpest does not have the swiss cheese defense of Honvéd so three goals once again would be a surprise.  Kisvárda should have no relegation concerns  this season and should join the Lilak as a mid-table club.

Újpest are looking as bruised as their passionate manager Nebojša Vignjević.   Last week, they were fortunate to earn a draw against Paks.   Their only win so far has been away at Miskolc. I do not see their second win coming away at Kisvárda.  They are currently in the sixth spot in the league and a mid-table finish looks about right..

Prediction:  Kisvárda 2-1 Újpest


Paks vs MOL Fehérvár 

Fehérvári úti stadion, Paks

Chris: Paks earned a draw against Újpest with a freak goal and they dispatched Honvéd two weeks ago.  Now back at home they will take on Fehérvár who are coming off a big win against ten-man Diósgyőr last week.  Paks haven’t seen what they expected out of Daniel Böde just yet and this will be a game they’ll need him to throw his weight around against the likes of Roland Juhász.

Fehérvár have scored a remarkable 11 goals in three games this season.  Armin Hodzic and Márcó Futács lead the league with four goals each - two of which Hodzic scored as a second half substitute last week.  It’s been quite a start to the season for Marko Nikolic’s side, but there are still some cracks in concentration that playing against ten-man Diósgyőr glossed over but were evident against Puskás in round 2.

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Fehérvár

Paul: Paks won their only home match so far against Honvéd which so far is not a big achievement.  This will be a big match for them as they can make a statement that Paks will once again a difficult place for away clubs to play.   I believe they make this statement this week in my “upset of the week.”

Fehérvár looked very good in scoring five goals at home and quickly disposed of  Diósgyőr.  They are off to a promising start to the season but this will find themselves in a battle in this match.  The Fehérvár back four appear to be stabilizing and rounding into form.  I am really liking what I am seeing from Márkó Futács so far and perhaps he will be the answer to their striker problems.

Prediction:  Paks 3-2 Fehérvár


Sunday, 25 August

Puskás Akadémia vs Ferencváros

Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Chris: Just as I suspected, the fast start by Puskás was a flash in the pan as they have yet to score after their three-goal outburst against Újpest to start the season.  Puskás’ front line of Ezekiel Henty and David Vanacek have been smothered and frustrated in the last couple of weeks, rendering them ineffective.  They’ve actually out-worked both Fehérvár and Mezőkövesd in their previous two defeats but weren’t able to finish their chances. 

After a frustrating goalless draw in Lithuania, Ferencváros will likely rotate again ahead of their second leg Europa League match next week.  A largely second-choice Fradi side managed to get past Kaposvár but the 1-0 score line didn’t reflect the champions’ dominance. They’ve had problems finding the back of the net in their last three games.

Prediction: Puskás 1-2 Ferencváros

Paul: Puskás have lost their lost two matches and have not scored any goals in those matches.  Their goal drought will continue here against a Fradi side while not as offensive as last season still have a strong defense.  After impressing me in their first match of the season, I may have been a bit too optimistic about the side from Felcsút

Ferencváros did not look very good in their mid-week Europa League match.  They should field their “B” side to make sure their players are fresh for their HUGE match next week.  They have had problems with Puskás in the past but should do just enough to secure a one goal win.

Prediction:  Puskás 0-1 Ferencváros


NBI - Round 3 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. Read on for all the latest news for each contest this week.

Paul:  Chris, we are back to all twelve clubs playing their matches but unfortunately all on Saturday.  I like it where the matches were spread over two days. 17 goals were scored in the five matches and three of the five matches were won by away clubs.  So the madness of Hungarian football has begun! Let us begin and try to unravel what is the mystery of NBI football.

Chris: This will short because I'm on vacation for the only time this year, but you said it Paul! Madness ensues will a full slate of games this week and it'll be nice to see Ferencváros start their season after being obliterated by GNK Dinamo on Tuesday. There are a lot of exciting matchups this week so let's get to the games!

Saturday, 17 August

Debrecen vs Zalaegerszeg

Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Chris: Debrecen came out of the blocks like a lightning bolt last week with a 4-1 win over Kisvárda.  They looked solid in their victory and will play at home for a second straight game to start the season.  Winger Ádám Bódi looks set for an extended absence after the club has sent him to get ankle surgery. 

Zalaegerszeg’s game against Ferencváros was postponed last week but they scheduled a friendly against UAE side Al-Ain and Miroslav Grumic was the goalscorer in a 1-0 win.  They played very well in an opening round defeat at Mezőkövesd and showed they aren’t going to be pushovers in this league.  Grumic is one to watch as he stood out in their game against Mezőkövesd as well.

Prediction: Debrecen 2-1 ZTE

Paul:  Debrecen looked very impressive in their dismantling Kisvárda.  They proved to be very impressive in set pieces despite the absence of skilled midfielder, Ádám Bódi.  Debrecen are home again and they will have no trouble in their match against the newcomers to the NBI.

Zalaegerszeg like Debrecen had their match against Ferencváros postponed due to the Champions League.  They hope the extra week off will do wonders as it did Debrecen last week. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. They are still a mystery team and while it is nice to have them back in the NBI, it will be very difficult for them to avoid relegation.

Prediction: Debrecen 3-0 ZTE


Ferencváros vs Kaposvár

Groupama Aréna, Budapest

Chris: Ferencváros will finally play their opening match of the season against newly promoted Kaposvár at Groupama Aréna.  Fradi are coming off a comprehensive defeat at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb in Champions League qualifying and are gearing up for Sūduva in the Playoff Round of the Europa League.  However, manager Sergei Rebrov has assembled a squad that should be deep enough to challenge on multiple fronts.  However, they’ll be without last season’s leading scorer Davide Lanzafame who has shifted back to Honvéd, leaving room for Franck Boli and Nikolai Signevich to battle it out. 

Kaposvár were handed their second straight defeat to start the season last week as Mezőkövesd beat them in their home opener.  The killer instinct of Martin Ádám in the first week was nullified against the smothering defense of Mezőkövesd.

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Kaposvár

Paul:   Ferencváros are back to playing NBI matches after exiting the Champions League.  It is now up to the manager, Sergei Rebrov, to get his players back on track and focused.  They have a deep squad that can handle playing two matches a week. A home match against the other NBI newcomers will pose little to no challenge for them.

Kaposvár were competitive in losing by a goal to Mezőkövesd.   In fact it was a goal keeper error that resulted in the first goal Mezőkövesd.  It should be interesting how they react to playing the top club in the NBI. They may be catching a frustrated Fradi side at the wrong time at the wrong place.  I see a flurry of Fradi goals.

Prediction:  Ferencváros 5-1 Kaposvár


Mezőkövesd vs Puskás Akadémia

Varosi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

Chris: Mezőkövesd have made a perfect start to their NBI campaign with wins over the two promoted teams so far.  New signing Aliaksandr Karnitski has shown a lot of promise in midfield as well as Tamás Cseri who looked very good last week and has been a consistent catalyst in their attack.   

After a comprehensive win over Újpest two weeks ago, Puskás fell to a disappointing defeat in Székesfehérvár in round two.  Puskás were arguably the better team against Fehérvár and really deserved a better result. This should be a very competitive game

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 2-2 Puskás

Paul:  Mezőkövesd have won their first two matches and appear to be a solid club. Tamás Cseri scored a lovely goal against Kaposvár in what was possibly the goal of the week.  They do have an impressive midfield which is a strength of the club. This will be an entertaining match and possibly the match of the week. I just can’t see them winning their first three matches in a row.

How many solid chances did Puskás waste in their home match against Fehérvár.  One the plus side they created a good many chances. Fehérvár manager, Marko Nikolić, was so impressed with Puskás that he predicted they will finish the season as a top four club in the NBI.  Puskás will right the ship this week and show that they are a squad to be reckoned with this season.

Prediction:   Mezőkövesd 1-2 Puskás


Honvéd vs Kisvárda

Uj Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest

Chris: Honvéd got the best news they could have received this week when striker David Lanzafame finalized a move from Ferencváros across town to Kispest.  This transfer solves their biggest problem which was having a real danger man up front - now they have the best striker in the league.   They’re still far from being out of the woods, however as they still have a lot of injuries in midfield and will miss out on defender Bence Batik who is suspended after his red card last week. 

After opening the season with a win at home against Paks, Kisvárda came crashing down to earth with a humbling defeat at Debrecen. Márk Kovácsréti and Gheorghe Grovav have been standout, early-season performers thus far and they should be able to penetrate a Honvéd defense that has already leaked five goals in two games.  Kisvárda’s defense will be tested by Lanzafame, however, and it’s likely he’ll want to make a statement in his first game back.

Prediction: Honvéd 2-1 Kisvárda 

Paul:  Davide Lanzafame is back on loan from Ferencváros.  I sure hope his return will revitalize the squad after their first two losses.  They really do need a shot in the arm. At the very least it will be entertaining to see Lanzafame back at Honvéd where he was the center of focus, a role which he relishes.

Kisvárda were pummeled in their match against Debrecen.   They play another away match but against a club is major disarray.  They may just be the cure for a struggling Honvéd who can use a win in a big way.

Prediction:  Honvéd 2-1 Kisvárda


MOL Fehérvár vs Diósgyőr

Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Chris: Fehérvár beat Puskás last week but the result was not indicative of the how the teams played.  Fehérvár’s defense was beaten again and again but were rescued by goalkeeper Ádám Kovácsik on numerous occasions.  It’s not been a stellar start to the season for last season’s runners-up in terms of performance but they’ve still managed to remain unbeaten nonetheless.

Diósgyőr are not the team of the last couple of seasons and should prove to be a bit more competitive throughout this season. Daniel Prosser and Matyas Taijti are playing  well and Fernando still has Haris Tabakovic waiting in the wings to bring even more attacking talent to his side. Also, midfielder Joachim Adukor has been an inspiring addition to the club.  Even so, I think it’ll be a tall order for Miskloc to steal points in Székesfehérvár

Prediction: Fehérvár 2-1 Diósgyőr

Paul: Fehérvár has quickly put their European debacle to rest and are ready to focus on the NBI.  Márkó Futács has had a promising start to the season with three goals.  Perhaps he is the answer at striker for this club?  Fehérvár appear to be ready and focused now on challenging for the championship.  On a side note, it’s a bit odd to see Szabolcs Huszti with a shaved head.

Diósgyőr is on the road after looking very lackluster in their match against Újpest.   Their are clearly lacking a consistent finishing striker. They have given Fehérvár tough matches in the past but here the goals will be flowing for the wrong side.   When will Haris Tabakovic return to Hungarian football?

Prediction:  Fehérvár 4-1 Diósgyőr

Újpest vs Paks

Rudolf Illovszky Stadion, Budapest

Chris: Újpest grabbed all three points in Miskolc last week to erase the memory of their first round defeat to Puskás a fortnight ago.  Obinna Nwobodo scored a sensational goal from outside the area for the winner, but it’s evident that Lilák are still missing a central attacking threat inside the box.  It was a completely different performance from Újpest who seemed to match the passion of their manager last week.  It’ll be interesting to see if that will carry over into this week’s game. 

Paks bounced back from a loss to Kisvárda with a good win over Honvéd in their home opener last week.  Janos Hahn trounced Kispest with two goals to kickstart his season and make a bid for top striker while Attila Osvath redeemed himself with a solid defensive performance in his second start with the club.  Dániel Böde only played the last few minutes last week but should be back in the starting lineup against Újpest.

Prediction: Újpest 1-0 Paks

Paul: I must say that I really admire Nebojša Vignjević, the manager of Újpest.  He looked like he should be in a hospital bed but he was on the sidelines with passion and fire.  He even shoved one of his players back onto the pitch as they were arguing with the referee. Újpest need to  show the personality of their manager on the pitch to be successful. There is still time to sign a quality striker or two.

Paks looked very good in their home  match against Honvéd. Balázs Balogh was solid in his Paks debut with two assists along with Mohamed Remili .  Hopefully Dániel Böde will be match fit and back in the starting eleven.  They played with three strikers at home and I am curious to see what formation they will play here.   Paks would be thrilled to leave Budapest with a draw.

Prediction:  Újpest 1-1 Paks


NB1 Round 2 preview

Football is back in Hungary and what a solid start to the season! On top of last week's season openers across the country, Ferencváros pulled off quite the result on Tuesday, earning a 1-1 draw against GNK Dinamo in their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg in Zagreb.

Once again Fradi will suspend the start to their domestic season to concentrate on the second leg against Dinamo in Budapest this week with the hopes of reaching the group stage. This, however, is not good news for Zalaegerszeg who I'm sure would have loved to play their home-opener against the champions.

Paul:  Chris, I’m back from the beautiful weather of Alaska to the hot summer in California.  Not a lot of surprises for me in the first round of play. I know this will not last long at all and the craziness will return on a regular basis when we least expect it.   I didn’t see a single match and as a result, I I don’t have much to say at the moment. With that said I will pass to Chris to dazzles us with his analysis and statistics.

Chris: Congrats Paul! Four out of five with two perfect scores! What a way to start the season. I'm not worthy. I defer to your greatness and give up already.

Well, not really. Like you said, the craziness has yet to start and there are 32 more rounds to totally screw up. :) Let's move on to this week's games.

Saturday, 10 August

Kaposvár vs Mezőkövesd

Kaposvári Rákóczi Stadion, Kaposvár

Chris: Kaposvár were hammered by Fehérvár last week in their opener but still managed to get two past a formidable defense.  Martin Ádám scored as many goals last week (2) as he did in the entire 2017/18 NB1 season with Vasas.  I was impressed with new-signing Andrey Yakimov.  The Ukrainian midfielder only played 60 minutes but was seemingly everywhere. Last season’s leading scorer Gergo Beliczky sat the bench last week.  It should be quite an atmosphere in Kaposvár as they host their first top flight  match in over five years. 

New Mezőkövesd signing Budu Zivzivadze did exactly what was expected of him as he scored the winner against ZTE last week. Most might have seen that scoreline as unimpressive, but Zalaegeszeg looked quite solid in their first NB1 match in recent history.  Credit to Mezo goalkeeper Péter Szappanos for keeping them in that one.  Attila Kuttor’s side borrowed trouble as they sat back  and protected an early lead but I think they’ll make the adjustment here.

Prediction: Kaposvár 1-2 Mezőkövesd

Paul:  Kaposvár look to be an attacking club as evidenced by their goal filled match against Fehérvár.  They will have the home fans behind them hopefully in good numbers as NB1 football has not been played in Kaposvár since 2014.  Yet, I see this as a defensive match and the home club will do well do earn a draw.

Mezőkövesd opened the season with their typical hard fought 1-0 match scoreline and this week find themselves against the other promoted club to the first division.  I don’t see this as a very exciting match and this may be one I skip and head to the fitness club instead. No 1-0 match here but a tie with a goal apiece.

Prediction: Kaposvár 1-1 Mezőkövesd

Budu Zivzivadze scores in his debut for Mezőkövesd (photo: Attila Török)


Diósgyőr vs Újpest

Diósgyőri Stadion, Miskolc

Chris: DVTK will play their second straight home game to start the season and Fernando Fernandez’s side must be soaring after holding off Honvéd last week in their opener.  Diósgyőr rode their luck a bit, but they managed to finish their chances while Kispest didn’t. If Joachim Adukor can play consistently in midfield like he did last week, Diósgyőr could be more of a threat this season.

What a disappointing defeat for Újpest last week.  Not only did they lose their “home” opener at Vasas’ new stadium, but their supporters also showed their discontent with some disparaging chants. It was understandable as Újpest’s normally solid defense crumbled under the physical attacking quality of Ezekiel Henty who outmuscled and out-paced Lilák’s backline.  The injury to Dzenan Burekovic saved the left back from having an even worse game.  His replacement, Benjamin Balázs scored the lone goal and was arguably their best player in a team that looked out of ideas on attack.

Prediction: Diósgyőr 1-1 Újpest

Paul:   Diósgyőr opened with a nice opening home win against Honvéd and find themselves with another home match against another Budapest based club.  This match should be tougher but wouldn’t it be something if the club from Miskolc started with two wins to open the season? I think this will be a defensive match once again with few goals unlike the match to end last season.

Újpest looked very bad in their opener against Puskás and the fans voiced their displeasure with their home club.  They will be lucky to earn a point here and I wouldn't be shocked if they left Miskolc without a point.  I still like their manager, Nebojša Vignjević and see him as a good fit for the club. Unless they sign some attacking  players before the transfer deadline, Újpest could be in for a rough start to their season.

Prediction:  Diósgyőr 1-1 Újpest


Sunday, 11 August

Paks vs Honvéd

Paksi Stadion, Paks

Chris: Paks were shut down by Kisvárda in their opener last week.  New-signing Dániel Böde was a passenger and last season’s team leader in goals, János Hahn, was even worse.  Midfielder Kristóf Papp seemed to get in more dangerous positions.  Jozsef Windecker and his replacement Benjamin Cseke were solid in midfield.

Rumors are swirling that Ferencváros striker Davide Lanzafame is likely to return to Honvéd in the coming days and boy, do they need him!  Kispest were all over Diósgyőr last week but only managed a penalty despite some golden opportunities to score.  Now add Dániel Gazdag and Barna Kesztyus to the injured list and Honvéd’s midfield depth is dwindling.

Prediction: Paks 1-0 Honvéd

Paul:  Paks lost a hard fought match last Sunday but didn’t show much on the offensive side of the ball.  They are home and look to rebound against a frustrated Honvéd squad. In Dániel Böde’s homecoming, Paks will be on target and stun Honvéd in my “upset of the week.”  It can be debated if this would really be an upset?

The word is Lanzafame is coming home to Honvéd.   That would be a shot in the arm for a squad in search of some desperate attacking help.   It certainly would spice up the NB1. For all his histrionics, I do very much enjoy watching Lanzafame play.   This match will show how much he needs to return “home.”

Prediction:   Paks 3-1 Honvéd

Can Dániel Böde rebound at home this week for Paks? (photo: György Koncz)


Puskás Akadémia vs MOL Fehérvár

Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Chris: Ezekiel Henty looked really good for Puskás last week.  His two goals highlighted a new-look Puskás side which included impressive performances from new faces Thomas Meissner and Yoëll van Nieff as well as former Hearts forward David Vanacek.

Fehérvár look to turn around a run of four games against Puskás without a win.  Their 4-2 win over Kaposvár last week wasn’t as dominant as they might have hoped, but they are now out of continental competition and can focus solely on the league. Ivan Petriak played extremely well in his debut last week with two assists, and newly-signed Macedonian defender Visar Musliu will bring even more quality to an already solid defense.

Prediction: Puskás 1-2 Fehérvár 

Paul:   Puskás looked very good in their away win against Újpest.  I was very impressed with an interview I saw with  their new manager, Zsolt Hornyak. At the same time, I must temper this with the fact the János Radoki won his opening match last season against Fehérvár. 3-0.   That won’t happen again, but I see this as the match of the week - an up-and-down affair.

I cannot express my disgust for the performance of Mol Fehérvár in losing to Vaduz.  I agree that they have taken several steps back after last season’s magical European run.  The squad is getting old in my opinion and Roland Juhász has already said that the Vaduz match will be his last in European football.  A loss would not surprise me in the least but the away team will come back in the end to secure a draw.

Prediction:  Puskás 2-2 Fehérvár


Debrecen vs Kisvárda

Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Chris: After getting trounced by Torino in Europa League qualifying, Debrecen will finally kick off their new season at home this week.  András Herczeg is starting his third full season and he’s added a number of attacking players to a team that finished third last season.  Nikola Trujic and Haruna Garba are two players that have already made an impact for Loki in continental play, but the loss of Ádam Bódi (7G, 9A last season) to an ankle injury will hit hard. 

Kisvárda edged past Paks in last week’s opener as Gheorghe Grozav picked up where he left off last season, scoring the winner in front of the their home fans.  Vasile Miurita’s team won’t be pushovers this season and could cause Debrecen some problems this week.  Anton Kravchenko continued his good form from last spring in Kisvárda’s back line and goalkeeper Mihai Minca made a good showing against Paks in just his second start in two seasons at the club.  It’s only a matter of time before Miurita hands Claudiu Bumba his debut bringing a distinctively Romanian feel to the side.  Kisvárda won both league games against Loki last season, scoring six goals and conceding only once.

Prediction: Debrecen 2-2 Kisvárda

Paul: It’s not often that a club begins with an open date the first week of the season, but this gives Debrecen an extra week to prepare for this match.  Debrecen will take full advantage of the extra week and come through with a convincing home win. I predict a top-3 finish for Loki this season.

Kisvárda took care of business with a home victory over Paks.  I am curious as to what style of play they incorporate under new manager, Vasile Miriuță.  I am not sure if Felipe will be match fit and playing again after his off the field shenanigans but it won’t matter here in a convincing away loss.

Prediction:  Debrecen 3-1 Kisvárda


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


Quick and dirty NB1 season preview

Hello everyone. We are back to the NB1 in a few short days and this is a no-nonsense review of this season's teams including summer transfers and some other fun discussion points. (Please contact the editor directly with any discrepancies, wrong information, or other blatant attempts at propaganda.)

MOL Fehérvár

Manager: Marko Nikolic - starting 2nd full season

Last season: 2nd

Leading scorer: Mark Scepovic - 10 goals, 3 assists

Top players: Loïc Nego D/W, Vinícius D, Mate Patkai M

Captain: Roland Juhász D

Key transfers in:

Ivan Petriak W - from Shakhtar Donetsk (played full season at Ferencváros last season)

Adrian Rus D - from Puskas (played 14 games on loan at Sepsi last season (1G, 1A)

Funsho Bamgboye W - from Haladás (35 games - 4G, 6A)

Key transfers out:

None

Major developments

Currently in the second qualifying round of the Europa League

Change from last season: MARGINALLY STRONGER - Marko Nikolic returns for a second season after leading the club to the Europa League group stage and a second place finish last term.  They’ve added two wingers but still have yet to add a top-tier striker.  

Ivan Petriak had a phenomenal season (6 goals, 11 assists) on loan at Ferencváros last year. If he can provide similar offensive support for Nikolics he will improve their attack considerably. Looks like they’re hoping Márkó Futács or Armin Hodic will step up this season as there is no potential out-and-out forward on the horizon.   Defense still among the best, but aging centre back Roland Juhasz and defensive midfielder Szabolcs Huszti (both 36 yrs old) are in their final seasons. 

Ferencváros

Manager: Sergei Rebrov - basically starting 2nd full season

Last season: Champions

Leading scorer: Davide Lanzafame - 16 goals, 7 assists

Top players: Gergo Lovrencsics D/W, Lasha Dvali D, Davide Lanzafame F, Ihor Kharatin M

Captain: Leandro D/M

Key transfers in:

Eldar Civic D- left back from Sparta Praha (22 games, 2 A)

Michal Svarka M - from Zilina (32 games - 10G, 15A)

Dávid Gróf GK - started every game for Honvéd last season

Oleksandr Zubkov W - loan from Shakhtar Donetsk

Danylo Ihnatenko M - loan from Shakhtar Donetsk

Rui Pedro M - returned from Haladás loan

Tamas Priskin F - returned from Haladás loan

Key transfers out:

Fernando Gorriarán M - to Santos Laguna

Dánial Böde F - to Paks

Ivan Petriak W - returned to Shakhtar Donetsk

Major developments

Currently in the third qualifying round of the Champions League

Change from last season: MARGINALLY STRONGER - Technically this will be Rebrov’s first full season at the helm but he’s had time to make the squad and the tactics his own.  Nando Gorriarán’s exit makes sense as it brings revenue allowing him to bring in a few more players.  Besides, Rui Pedro’s performances at Haladás this spring shows that he’s perfectly suited to provide a high-level attacking spark in NB1.  Early performances of Michal Svarka and Zubkov are encouraging as well in central midfield.  

In attack, dumping the aging Böde was a wise move, leaving Lanzafame and Signevich to battle for the striker position.  Priskin’s return from his Haladás loan has helped provide depth this summer but I can’t see him being part of Rebrov’s long-term plans.  Zubkov and Ihnatenko look like very smart business as they will also bring quality depth to a team hoping to reach the group stage in continental competition.

In Gróf, Rebrov has brought in one of the best keepers in the league to back up Dibusz, and left-back Eldar Civic will allow the manager to be more creative with his back four. 

Puskás Akadémia

Manager: Zsolt Hornyak - started 1 July

Last season: 7th

Leading scorer: Josip Knezevic - 12 goals

Top players: Kamen Hadzhiev CB; Josip Knezevic F; Jozef Urblik M

Captain: Roland Szolnoki D

Key transfers in:

Gol-Gol Mebrahtu F - spent last two seasons in Czech league, very little playing time. 

Ezekiel Henty F - loan return from Osijek - 5 goals in 22 appearances

David Vanecek F - from Hearts (SPL) disappointing spring season

Lóránd Fülöp M - from Botosani - 16 goals in 54 appearances

Thomas Meißner D - from Willem II - regular center back for them

Yoëll van Nieff M - from Heracles Almelo - bit part player (15 appearances)

Key transfers out:

Adrian Rus D - to Fehérvár

Liridon Latifi M - to Sheriff Tiraspol

Bachana Arabuil F - to Panionios

Márk Szécsi F - to Debrecen

Branislav Danilovic GK - to Diósgyőr

András Radó F - to Zalaegerszeg

Balázs Balogh M - released

Major developments

New manager to start the season.  Hornyak, most recently with Slovan Liberec, hasn’t had the longest of tenures in his 8-year managerial career. 

Change from last season: SAME - The “Academy” continues to sign a plethora of players from around the world instead of developing their own talent.  In a search for a striker Puskás have brought on a clutch of possibles. Heart’s manager Craig Levein called Vanecek “rubbish” after his second appearance with the club.  Ezekiel Henty can’t seem to find a team that wants him, and Mebrahtu has yet to click consistently anywhere. 

Meißner looks like a solid signing to add depth behind János Hegedus and Hadzhiev.  Latifi was a bit of a disappointment last season as was Arabuli.  Lóránd Fülöp had a good season at Botosani. 

Honvéd

Manager: Giuseppe Sannino - appointed end of May

Last season: 4th

Leading scorer: Filip Holender - 16 goals, 2 assists

Top players: Ivan Lovric D, Daniel Gazdag M, Amadou Moutari F

Captain: Djordje Kamber M

Key transfers in:

Moutari Amadou F - from Mezőkövesd - 3 goals, 1 assist in 14 appearances

Vladyslav Kulach F - on loan from Shakhtar 

Rubi Levkovich GK - from Hapoel Tel Aviv

Patrick Ikenne-King RB  - on loan from MTK

Niba MacDonald D - from FC Nitra in Slovakia - 21 appearances

Federico Moretti M - from Serie C Abissola 

Key transfers out:

Filip Holender F - to FC Lugano

Danilo F - to Muaither SC in Qatar

Dávid Gróf GK - to Ferencváros

Patrik Tischler F - returned to Újpest

Major developments

Currently in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

Former Watford manager Sannino is first Italian since Rossi to try and take Honvéd and turn them into a contender. Last time he was at a club for longer than a year was at Varese (2008-11).

Change from last season: MARGINALLY WEAKER - With arguably their top three players moving on after last season, Honvéd have had to do some rebuilding this summer.  Amadou, injured with an achilles rupture for the first half of last season with Ferencváros, transferred to Mezőkövesd and did reasonably well in the spring.  Now healthy he should be at his best but will take a career season to replace Holender’s production. 

Dávid Gróf’s move to Ferencváros left them with a huge hole, but Levkovich has looked very good in the Europa League qualifiers so far.  Good defense but their attack will be the main question mark - N’Gog is not the answer. 

Újpest

Manager: Nebojsa Vignjevic - starting his 6th full season

Last season: 5th

Leading scorer: Soma Novothny - 9 goals

Top players: Robert Litauszki D, Kire Ristevski D, Obinna Nwobodo M

Captain: Robert Litauszki D

Key transfers in:

Aron Bjarnason F - from Breidablik (7 goals and 5 assists in 15 appearances)

Márk Koszta F - from Mezőkövesd (7 goals and 4 assists in 26 appearances)

Karol Mészáros F - from Haladás (2 goals and 2 assists in 20 appearances)

Key transfers out:

Alassane Diallo M - released

Lacina Traoré F - to CFR Cluj

Giorgi Beridze F - to Gent

Patrik Tischler F - to Kisvárda

Dániel Nagy M - to Mezőkövesd

Mijusko Bojovic D - to Keshla (Azerbaijan)

Change from last season: MARGINALLY WEAKER - After a season where Újpest failed to find a consistent goal-scoring threat, they have flushed almost their entire attack and are looking to rebuild it.  So far they’ve managed to keep their impressive defense intact but their entire squad is a skeleton crew at the moment.  Youth players and trialists are currently making up the missing depth as Nebojsa Vignjevic decides on the rest of this squad for the start of the season. 

Debrecen

Manager: András Herczeg - starting his third full season

Last season: 3rd

Leading scorer: Márk Szécsi - 8 goals, 1 assist

Top players: Dániel Tozsér M; János Ferenczi F; Csaba Szatmari D

Captain: Dániel Tozsér M

Key transfers in:

Nikola Trujic F - from Vozdovac (1 goal in 18 matches)

Florentin Bouoli F - 

Tunde Adeniji F - from Al-Nasr

Haruna Garba F - from Gzira United 

Key transfers out:

Aleksandar Jovanovic M - to Szeged

Haris Tabakovic F - to Diósgyőr 

Erik Cikos D - released

Albion Avdijaj F - Grasshoppers

Major developments

Currently in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

Change from last season: SAME - The trend to bring in more and more attacking players into the league continues as Debrecen scoop another handful of hopefuls.  Nikola Trujic already has two assists for Loki in Europa League qualifying as he’s looking like a good piece of business so far, but the others are all relatively unknown.  They’ve managed to hold on to the core of their team that topped the “also-rans” last season and finished third.  

Moving Haris Tabakovic on was a bit of a head scratcher as he finished seventh in the league in scoring two years ago and was just recovering from a season-long injury. 

Paks

Manager: Tomislav Sivic - appointed in May

Last season: 8th

Leading scorer: Janos Hahn (9 goals)

Top players: Zsolt Gevay D, Daniel Böde F, Bence Lenzsér D; Janos Hahn F

Captain: Tamás Báló D

Key transfers in:

Dániel Böde F - from Ferencváros (7 goals, 1 assist in 23 appearances) 

Attila Osváth D - from Puskás (14 appearances)

Key transfers out:

Tamás Egerszegi M - on load to Honvéd

Major developments

Tomislav Sivic is in his second stint with Paks.  The first was 7 years ago where they finished 13th of 16.  He’s also had unsuccessful tours of duty with Diósgyőr and Mezőkövesd most recently in Hungary.

Change from last season: SAME - Paks parted ways with long-time manager Aurel Csertői at the end of last season.  Replacing him with Sivic is a step down in my opinion.  Dániel Böde brings a proven target man to the club - a big presence up top to balance out Janos Hahn’s more nimble approach in the final third.  Böde’s age may get the better of him this season but he still has a nose for goal.  They were crippled with injures last season, especially to their defense.  Most are back and healthy to start the season. 

Mezőkövesd 

Manager: Attila Kuttor - starting first full season

Last season: 6th

Leading scorer: Stefan Drazic - 11 goals, 6 assists

Top players: Gabor Molnar F; Tamás Cseri F; Robert Pillar D

Captain: Tamás Cseri F

Key transfers in:

Budu Zizivadze F - Torpedo Kutaisi (19 goals, 5 assists in 24 appearances)

Aleksandr Karnitskiy M - Sepsi (1 goal in 24 appearances)

Andrii Nesterov D - Karpaty (1 goal in 6 appearances)

Dániel Nagy M - Újpest (4 goals in 24 appearances)

Zsombor Berecz M - on loan from Fehérvár (9 appearances)

Key transfers out:

Stefan Drazic F - to CC Yatai

Amadou Moutari F - to Honvéd

Richard Nagy M - to Kapsovar

Márk Koszta F - to Újpest

Change from last season: MARGINALLY STRONGER - Stefan Drazic’s transfer is a big blow in terms of production, but it looks as if Kuttor has addressed wholesale needs of the club as well as a possible replacement of their top scorer with the addition of Zizivadze from Georgian giants Topedo Kutaisi.  Defender Andrii Nesterov was injured for most of last season at Karpaty and is looking to make his mark with a fresh start in NB1.  The trade with Újpest, bringing Dániel Nagy to the club for Koszta is essentially a wash, but the deal that brought Gábor Molnár to the club permanently was very smart even though it was expected. 

Diósgyőr 

Manager: Fernando Fernández - starting his second full season

Last season: 10th

Leading scorer: Richárd Vernes F - 7 goals, 4 assists

Top players: Dusan Brkovic D, Mátyás Tajti M; Florent Hasani F

Captain: Botond Antal GK

Key transfers in:

Haris Tabakovic F - from Debrecen

Branislav Danilovic GK - from Puskás

Joachim Adukor M - from Sarajevo (1 goal, 2 assists in 19 appearances) 

Key transfers out:

Richárd Vernes F - Hapoel Kfar Saba

Tomislav Mazalovic M - Inter Zapresic

Change from last season: SAME - Fernando was shown faith by the club last season and they struggled but finished just above the line for a second consecutive season.  This is the season they’ll expect more from him as they look for comfortable mid-table.  The loss of Richárd Vernes will be cushioned by the arrival of a healthy Haris Tabakovic from Debrecen.  If Tabakovic can equal the 12 goals he scored two seasons ago then DVTK will have made a nice coup here. Danilovic provides some nice insurance for Antal who, quite honestly, didn’t have the best of seasons.  Danilovic was Puskás’ first choice in the first half last season, but then fell out of favor. 

Kisvárda

Manager: Vasile Miriuta - appointed mid-June

Last season: 9th

Leading scorer: Zoltán Horváth F - 9 goals, 5 assists

Top players: Felipe GK; Stavros Tsoukalas M; Gheorghe Grozav F, Lucas M

Captain: Lucas M

Key transfers in:

Patrik Tischler F - from Újpest

Claudiu Bumba F - from Adanaspor (3 goals, 5 assists in 27 appearances)  

Key transfers out:

Zoltán Horváth F - to FC Gyor

Barnabás Vári D - to FC Gyor

Brana Illic F - released

Pavlo Lukianchuk D - return to Dynamo Kiev

Patrick Mevoungou M - released

Major developments

László Dajka took a team with one of the worst starts in recent history to safety with a four-point cushion thanks to a phenomenal second half last season.  His replacement, Miriuta, has coached in NB1 before - steering Gyor to a mid-table position in the 2014-15 season, but Gyor were relegated to NBIII due to financial reasons. He has managed some of the top teams in Romania including Cluj and Dinamo Bucharest.

Goalkeeper Felipe didn’t show up to pre-season training on time but, despite some summer drama, he is back to marsahl the. backline in his odd quirky way.

Change from last season: MARGINALLY STRONGER - Miriuta looks to be good replacement for Dajka who stayed with the club with another role.  Miriuta was key in signing Bumba, a 3x capped full Romanian international, who is forecasted to do well in Hungary.  This is good news as leading scorer Zoltán Horváth has jumped ship along with regular defender Vári to join Gyor.  There are also rumors that Ferencváros are trying to lure Grozav which would be a big blow to their attack.   Kisvárda were a competitive team under Dajka and if Miriuta can get the same or more from this side they should be able to reach mid-table comfort. 

Zalaegerszegi TE

Manager: Barna Dobos - starting essentially his second full season

Last season: 1st in NBII (promoted)

Leading scorer: Benjamin Babati - 15 goals, 7 assists in 28 games

Top players: Benjamin Babati F; Szilárd Devecseri D; Dávid Barczi M

Key Transfers in:

Kristztián Tamás D - on loan from Fehérvár (1 goal, 1 assist in 17 appearances)

András Radó F - from Puskás Akadémia (6 goals, 2 assists in 32 appearances)

Eduvie Ikoba F - from Dartmouth (US university)

Oleh Holodiuk M - from Haladás (1 goal, 1 assist in 12 appearances)

Nikola Mitrovic M - from Keshla FK (2 goals, 4 assists in 27 appearances)

Key Transfers out:

Zsolt Gajdos F - to Szeged (9 goals, 1 assist in 26 appearances)

Balazs Farkas II F - to Soroksár (2 goals, 1 assist in 13 appearances)

What to expect:

ZTE ran away with the NB2 championship, finishing 8 points clear with a +36 goal differential.  Benjamin Babati’s 15 goals led the way and Zsolt Gajdos also provided a threat up front with 9 of his own last season.   Dobos has wisely brought in some talent with NB1 experience as Tamás, Radó, and Holodiuk have all been there before.

Attacking midfielder Miroslav Grumic, wide midfielder Dávid Barczi, and defenders Szilárd Devecseri and Zoran Lesjak have top league experience as well.   The interesting signing is American forward Eduvie Ikoba who is a monster target man up front and will certainly be treated to some abuse by NB1 defenders, but perhaps it will give Babati more room to roam in attack. 

Back in the NB1 for the first time since the 2011/12 campaign, ZTE might be able to fight off some of the low-hanging fruit if they can gel in time.  If Kisvárda could turn things around after the poor start they had last season then that gives any promoted team hope they can do the same. 

Kaposvár

Manager: Róbert Waltner - 3rd season

Last season: 2nd in NBII (promoted)

Leading scorer: Gergo Beliczky F - 12 goals, 5 assists in 36 appearances

Top players: Attila Szakály M; Gergo Beliczky F; Csaba Vachtler D; Krisztián Pogacsics GK

Key Transfers in:

Norbert Csiki M - from Budaörs (11 goals, 9 assists in 27 appearances)

Matej Poplatnik F - from Kerala Blasters (4 goals in 16 appearances)

Key Transfers out:

Péter Rajczi F - (9 goals, 2 assists in 24 appearances)

What to expect:

Kaposvár finished comfortably in second place with a nine point buffer above and below to cruise into the top flight for the first time in six years - and first time since the league was reduced to 12 teams from 16.  Main striker Gergo Beliczky is back to lead the attack, but they’ve added a bit of a wild card with Matej Poplatnik coming in from the Indian Super League’s Kerala Blasters to join in the attack.  38 year old Péter Rajczi had a good season but he’s made way for Poplatnik apparently.  

Richárd Nagy will be back as a loan player from Mezőkövesd.  The attacking midfielder chimed in with 6 goals and 10 assists last season.  Right winger Ervin Zsiga looks like he’ll also return for a second season after contributing with 11 assists.

It will be a tough go for Kaposvár against some improving NB1 teams this season, but they have some exciting players to watch.


Ferencváros vs Valletta preview

The following is a preview of the upcoming Champions League qualifier between Ferencváros and Valletta FC.  A collaboration between Chris Barrett of hungarianfootball.com and Maltese football expert Gianluca Gia 

After defeating Ludogorets last week, Ferencváros find themselves in familiar, albeit dangerous waters as they look to break a horrible run of early exits in Europe.

The last time Fradi reached the group stage of a European competition was 15 years ago in the UEFA Cup - the first year they introduced a group stage to UEFA’s precursor to the Europa League.  Since then, they’ve never advanced beyond the second qualifying round of any continental competition. 

They’re in good company this week as their opponents, Malta champions Valletta FC, have never progressed beyond the second qualifying round in their history.  So, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?  We will find out shortly.

Green Eagles Soaring

The most remarkable trait so far this year for the Hungarian champions was their ability to set the tone in their games against Ludogorets.  They came out of the gates against their first round opponents with a sharp attack and took an early lead in both legs.  Winning in Razgrad was a pleasant surprise for fans of Hungarian football as it was the first Champions League tie Ferencváros had won in 15 years - way back in the day when they defeated Albanian side Tirana on away goals. 

Depth everywhere

Sergei Rebrov looks to have a healthy and suspension-free squad to choose from.  Oleksandr Zubkov has scored and added two assists while Tokmac Chol Nguen has two goals so far in Champions League play. A recent friendly match featured most of the players that didn’t play against Ludogorets and Rebrov will have the luxury of selecting his team with depth at almost every position.  Isael, and Mikhail Signevich are available after serving their suspensions, along with a seemingly heathy Davide Lanzafame are all ready to make an impact.

Not their first rodeo

Ferencváros have played Maltese opponents in continental competition before and it’s historically been a positive experience.  Their brushes with the island nation go all the way back to the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1972 where they defeated Floriana in the first round.  More recently, Fradi defeated Birkirkara 6-0 on aggregate in the 2003-04 UEFA Cup qualifying round, and then squeezed past Sliema Wanderers in the first qualifying round of the 2014-15 Europa League.  

Who are Valletta F.C.?

Valletta FC have won the Maltese Premier League 25 times

Valletta are considered one of the most successful and supported clubs in Maltese football.  They have won the Maltese Premier League three of the past four seasons, and have a long (if not successful) European record; qualifying for continental football each of the last 12 seasons. They’ve had run-ins with with Hungarian clubs in the past, losing to Haladás in the Cup Winners Cup in 1975 and then to Honvéd in the European Cup in 1980. 

Morale is high

Valletta have never reached beyond this stage but there is cause for cautious optimism in Malta as their champions got past F91 Dudelange in the first qualifying round. Quite a feat as the Luxembourg champs reached the group stage of the Europa League last year.  Also, Gżira United got past Hajduk Split in the Europa League first qualifying round so there is an atmosphere of euphoric hope among fans of Maltese football these days.

The attack

According to Malta football expert Gianluca Lia, Valletta have a quality side with a number of offensive threats.  Kyrian Nwoko, Mario Fontanella and Douglas Packer lead an attacking line across the top of a 4-3-3.  Nwoko is a 22 year-old Maltese full international, and Fontanella is an Italian forward who scored 14 goals in 21 appearances for Valletta last season.  Packer is a former Juventus youth player who has been a bit of a globetrotter.  At 32 years of age the Brazilian joined the club this summer as a replacement for departed striker Miguel Alba.  Alba was considered the best player in the league, scoring 13 goals and 15 assists in 32 games last season and Valletta are hoping Packer is the answer for now. 

Lia believes that another Italian forward, Matteo Piciollo is the best foreigner in the league and could be a factor if he can get healthy in time for this tie.

At right back they have Enmy Pena Beltre, a Dominican international who is skilled with pace and “can shoot from everywhere.”  Enough to give someone like Marcel Heister nightmares?  Well, that remains to be seen.

With midfielder Rowan Muscat returning to the lineup after being suspended for the second leg against Dudelange, it’s possible they’ll line up similar to how they approached last round’s first leg.  However, with midfielder Santiago Malano out injured, it’s likely they’ll be forced to use either Nicolas Pulis or Shaun Dimech - both of whom have youth on their side, but perhaps not experience.

Cracks in the armor

Valletta manager Darren Abdilla has had his team in Budapest since Monday training and preparing mentally for the game. In a pre-match press conference he hinted at some weaknesses he might exploit saying,  “We analyzed the Ferencváros battle against Ludogorec, and we saw that the summer [transfers] were very good and the performance of the [wide attackers] was striking. But we also saw points in the team that didn't work so well, we hope we can use them.”

Valletta defender Jean Borg: “Ferencváros is a good team with good players, but nothing is impossible in football. We will add everything and hope that it will be enough for a good result!”

Being prepared

It’s not a surprise that Ferencváros are heavy favorites in this tie, but the collective conscious of the Hungarian football community knows all-too-well of their teams’ capacity to allow minnows to appear as sharks in high-profile games.  Ferencváros goalkeeper Dénes Dibusz outlined their opponents biggest threat: “We need to be mindful of [Valletta’s counterattack] and play confidently and accurately in the middle and at the back of the pitch, creating the opportunity for our creative players to score goals. We have been working throughout the week in the spirit of gaining an advantage that we can legitimately trust to advance.

Prediction

The main concern for Ferencváros will be one of concentration among the players.  For many of them this is their first taste of Champions League action and if they can remain focused they should be able to control their home tie.  Their defense has been impressive, but lapses (like Heister’s own-goal off a set piece in the second leg against Ludogorets) must be eliminated.

Valletta are playing with house money and aren’t expected to advance so the pressure is squarely on their opponents.  If they can take advantage of that and capitalize on mental errors they could create some panic. 

I think Rebrov has Fradi playing intelligently and they’re learning from their mistakes.  The depth he has will allow him to make impact substitutions at any stage of the game for any situation.  It will take quite an effort for Valletta to get a result at Groupama, but I can’t see that happening.  

Chris Barrett’s first leg prediction:  Ferencváros 3-0 Valletta

Gianluca Gia’s first leg prediction:  Ferencváros 3-1 Valletta