PREVIEW: NBI – round 19

This is the final week before the top flight of Hungarian football goes dormant for six weeks. Teams like Mezőkövesd, Videoton, and Honvéd are hitting their stride and would love to see the campaign extend over the holidays. On the other hand, teams like Gyirmót, Ferencváros, and Debrecen are looking forward to the break to rest or regroup.
It’s been a thrilling season so far, and this final week should provide us with some twists and turns as NBI closes the curtain on act one.

Budapest Honvéd (3rd) vs Mezőkövesd-Zsóry SE (5th)
at Bozsik József Stadion

This could be the match of the round. The two hottest teams in NBI will clash in the outskirts of the capital. Honvéd are unbeaten in their last five with four wins. They’ve defeated both ends of the table in consecutive weeks, showing that they’re just as comfortable playing when stakes are high as well as when complacency might become an issue. Marco Rossi must be pleased with not only the results but they way his side has been playing. Winger, Dániel Prosser, has scored in his last two games for Honvéd. With leading scorer Davide Lanzafame not even on the team sheet week last week, it’s been a positive sign that others have stepped up to carry the load in attack.
Attila Pintér’s Mezőkövesd are unbeaten in their last 7 with five victories, but their biggest came last week – a 2-0 victory over Ferencváros. Midfielder Stipe Bacelic-Grgic has 1 goal and 3 assists in last five for Mezőkövesd, and he leads the team in overall production with 3 goals and 5 assists on the season. In goal, wonder-boy Tomas Tujvel has kept 5 clean sheets in his last 7 appearances and has been as big a contributor as any player in terms of the club’s recent fortunes. Mezo defeated Honvéd 3-1 in their last meeting. In fact, Honvéd has lost to Mezőkövesd in all three of their competitive matches.

Prediction: Budapest Honvéd 2-2 Mezőkövesd-Zsóry

Diósgyori VTK (11th) vs Gyirmót FC Gyor (12th)
at Mezőkövesd Városi Stadion

Round 19 also features a true relegation six-pointer as Diósgyor will try to take advantage of Gyirmót’s plummeting form and leapfrog a few teams in the process. DVTK had won consecutive matches before being humbled 3-0 by Vasas at the weekend. Even so, both Zoltán Lipták and Roland Ugrai have 2 goals in their last three matches. István Bognár started for the first time in four matches last week as he looks almost 100% after recovering from a broken hand.
Gyirmót are on seven match losing run and haven’t scored in two games. In fact, they’ve only scored twice in their last seven matches. It’s been a disastrous stretch for the newly-promoted side and they’ll be a team that will welcome the break to hopefully retool and regroup.
Gyirmót defeated Ferenc Horváth’s side back in September when Gyirmót were pinning up clean-sheets like busy mum on a clear spring day. However, in their last three matches they’ve conceded as many goals as they did in the entire months of August and September.  On top of that they haven’t scored a goal on the road since 24 September – their last victory.

Prediction: Diósgyor 2-0 Gyirmót

Paksi FC (9th) vs Vasas SC (1st)
at Fehérvári úti Stadion

Vasas travel to the “fortress” of Fehévári úti this week in an attempt to finish the autumn season on a high note. Paks, however, are still undefeated at home having only conceded 6 goals in 9 matches there this season. Only Haladás have as good a defensive record at home. Their win over Haladás at the weekend broke a run of five draws at Paksi Stadion
Mahir Saglik will serve last of his 3-match ban for Vasas but his absence didn’t seem to slow them down last week in a 3-0 demolition of DVTK. If anyone had doubt about them sustaining their good start to the season It think it’s safe to say that they are real title contenders now.
Michael Oenning’s side narrowly defeated Paksi at home back in early September but I think it will be a struggle for them to escape with anything more than a point under the shadow of the nuclear plant.

Prediction: Paksi 1-1 Vasas

Szombathelyi Haladás (6th) vs Videoton FC (2nd)
at Káposztás utcai Stadion, Sopron

Géza Mészöly has been without injured striker David Williams since mid-October. Since then Haladás have placed their offensive hopes on last season’s offensive juggernaut Bálint Gaál and he hasn’t disappointed. Gaál has scored 4 goals in last five matches and six in 13 so far this season. Last season he amassed 7 goals in 26 appearances so the 25 year-old looks on course for a breakout year.
Haladás have scored one goal in each of the last five. They have one win in their last six, but they’re a team that can show up or check out depending on the day. This was illustrated best when they lost 1-0 at home to Gyirmót earlier this season and then turned around and beat Fradi 2-0 the next week.
Videoton come into this game on the back of consecutive wins for the first time since mid-September. They’re the only team in the league averaging over 2 goals scored per game.
They’ve won 3 of their last four with all three victories being clean sheets. I still can’t get over how good this team is offensively. Lazovic and Scepovic were quieted in terms of production last week, but still looked just as dangerous. Vidi’s defense has solidified even more throughout the course of the fall season as well.

Prediction: Haladás 1-2 Videoton

Újpest FC (7th) vs Debreceni VSC (8th)
at Széktói Stadion, Kecskemét

One of the things that Újpest manager Nebojša Vignjevic can be proud of is that his team can score goals consistently. Lilák have only been held off the score sheet just twice all season (both times at home, incredibly). Currently they’re unbeaten in 9 matches (8 of those being draws) and they have not been held without a goal in 11 consecutive games. Attacking midfielder Enis Bardhi has been a joy to watch this season. The diminutive Macedonian has 7 goals and 5 assists in NBI and started for his country against Spain this fall. He’s been a huge offensive catalyst in a team that has failed to close out games at the back end. Without the ability to add to their squad until the summer they will simply have to score more goals to stay competitive.
Enter Debrecen, who have scored just 1 goal in their last four matches and haven’t scored in their last two. This could be just what Vignjevic’s boys need heading into the break. However, Leonel Pontes’ side have scored 7 goals in their last 5 away games. They did beat Újpest earlier this season 2-1 at home, but I can’t see them repeating that same feat in Kecskemét.  Barnburner anyone?

Prediction: Újpest 3-2 Debrecen

Ferencvárosi TC (4th) vs MTK Budapest (10th)
at Groupama Aréna

Ferencváros manager Thomas Doll will be back in the technical area for his team after serving a two-match ban. Left back Cristian Ramirez will be serving his final game of a three-match suspension. With just one win in their last four Fradi really need a win to close out the first half of the season. They are five points adrift of the top spot and could be as much as 8 if they can’t turn things around. Their attack looked unfocused, frantic (at times), and increasingly desperate as they saw the game slipping away against Mezőkövesd last week. It will be a boost for them to return home where only Videoton match them in offensive production with 24 goals
MTK are still the only team without a victory on the road this season. They’ve only scored four goals in 9 away games and leading scorer Sándor Torghelle is looking increasingly frustrated and risks becoming a non-factor. Other than Torghelle, only right back Patrik Poór has scored more than once this season for Vaszilisz Teodoru’s side.
Fradi will be out for blood in this one. They lost in the waning moments against 10-man MTK earlier this season and they’ll want to make amends for that.

Prediction: Ferencvaros 3-1 MTK Budapest

Follow me on Twitter