NB1 Round 18 Preview

The winds of winter have heralded the snow that is soon to fall across the frozen Danube and Tisza rivers.  Foolish worshippers of the beautiful game will layer themselves against the elements; wrapped in their tribal colors with a song at the ready to lift the hearts of their club’s representatives one last time before the end of the year.  Join with Paul and Chris as they dissect this week’s slate of slot games in the Hungarian NB1 with a preview of each match and their predictions of each result.  It’s Round 18 – the last game of the year for each club before they shut it all down.  Grab your favorite beverage and enjoy.

Paul: Chris, the last round of the year is coming at the right time with the cold Hungarian winter.  The scores have fallen along with the temperature.  Surprisingly, round 17 had 17 goals which is not bad.  Can we predict 18 goals for round 18?   In all seriousness, I enjoy writing this article with you and it sure makes it different watching the matches as I often cheer for my predictions rather than specific teams.  I wish everyone Happy Holidays and see you in 2019!

Chris: Same Paul.  It’s been another great year of throwing wayward darts at the target with you but I’m happy to do it!  It should be a very competitive match day as teams won’t want to be “under the line” for two months.  A lot of this will come down to mindset.  Players (or teams) who are already on holiday (mentally) will create chaos this week.  I’ll get the popcorn.   

Saturday, 15 December

Kisvárda vs MTK

at Várkert Sportpálya, Kisvárda

Paul: It has been some time since I’ve chosen an “upset of the week.”  So this is it!.  Kisvárda has shown some life the last two weeks and they will end the year on a positive note against an MTK team that can be very good or very bad, hardly playing in between.

MTK looked impressive in defeating a poor Haladás squad at home.   The squad will overlook Kisvárda and think a half hearted effort will be enough for a victory.   They will find themselves down early by two goals and by the time they starting really playing, it will be too late.

Prediction: Kisvárda 2-1 MTK

Chris: Kisvárda will be missing one of their in-form players in right back Pavlo Lukyanchuk who was controversially sent off last week against Diósgyőr.  They’ve put together a couple of solid results recently and actually defeated MTK earlier this season in Budapest.  Goalkeeper Felipe put on a show last week with some massive saves in a 1-1 draw in Miskolc and they’ll be fired up at home this week.

MTK stepped up big last week despite a couple of late scratches to their lineup.  They made mincemeat of directionless Haladás putting four past them without the services of veterans Jozsef Kanta and Ádám Pinter.   With a full squad at his disposal, I’m backing Tamás Feczkó’s team to do just enough to get the points in Kisvárda.

Prediction: Kisvárda 1-2 MTK

Paks vs Diósgyőr

at Fehérvári úti Stadion, Paks

Paul: Paks came close to defeating Puskás last week but playing with ten men is difficult and it eventually was too much to overcome.  This week finds them at home against Diósgyor.  Despite the away team’s strong recent form, look for Paks to end the season with a strong home win.

Diósgyor has not lost in their last four matches and the cold weather seems to be working well for them.   With some good winter signings, they can stay up in the first division.   They will end the year with a loss but good things may happen for them in 2019.

Prediction: Paks 3-1 Diósgyőr

Chris:  Just as Paks are getting Zsolt Haraszti back, they’ll be without suspended Tamás Báló this week.  The influential left back was sent off after playing just 17 minutes last week in Felcsút.  Paks haven’t won in their last three home games but this could be the game that changes that trend for them.

Diósgyőr will miss the ever-present Richard Vernes (2 goals, 2 assists, 17 games) who is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.  Fernando Fernández has his team playing much better in the last month or so but this will be a tough outing for them.

Paks will be smarting after letting points slip by so late last week and they’ll be encouraged playing at home in cold, snowy conditions – the best atmosphere for typical Paks win at Fehérvári úti.

Prediction: Paks 2-0 Diósgyőr

Puskás vs Mezőkövesd 

at Pancho Aréna, Felcsút 

Paul: Puskás had their five week home win streak broken with a tie and that led to the firing of their manager, Miklós Benczés.  With that in mind, I think the squad will be a little disorganized in this match so I don’t see them winning against a tough Mezőkövesd squad.   Could the winter find ex-manager, Attila Pintér, back at the helm?

Mezőkövesd are playing Puskás at the right time and I would choose an away win if not for the recent strong home form of Puskás.  A win is possible but in the cold and away a draw is the safe pick in this match.

Prediction: Puskás 0-0 Mezőkövesd

Chris: Puskás surprisingly sacked manager Miklós Benczés on Saturday and have temporarily handed the reins over to Club Director András Komjáti.  Their run of home victories was stopped last week at five but they still managed a dramatic late equalizer against ten-man Paks.

Mezőkövesd will be without influential winger Tamás Cseri (2 goals, 3 assists, 17 games) as he sits out for yellow card accumulation. Attila Kuttor’s players staged a late comeback against Ferencváros last week but fell just short – their first defeat in their last seven competitive matches.  Mezőkövesd beat Puskás 2-0 at home in early September and will be looking to capitalize on the current unrest in Felcsút and should be happy with a point.

Prediction: Puskás 2-2 Mezőkövesd

Haladás vs Debrecen

at Szombathely Haladás Stadion, Szombathely 

Paul: Haladás were thumped by MTK by four goals last week so the end of the year can’t come soon enough.  Hopefully Santa Claus will find some new players for the squad who can inject some live and keep the club in the first division.  With improved home form, the a draw is possible here.

Debrecen has won their last two matches, including a win at Budapest versus MTK.  It is very tempting to make the easy choice which is a Debrecen win but something tells me the home teams will come out strong while the away team maybe a little flat and underperforming.

Prediction: Haladás 1-1 Debrecen

Chris: Haladás have to be pretty low after last week’s thrashing at MTK.  They return home where they’re unbeaten in their last two but they’ll be without two key figures in defender Márk Jagodics and leading scorer Tamás Priskin who are both out due to yellow card accumulation.  Manager Ferenc Horváth has looked increasingly frustrated with this team and another defeat could see him give up this reclamation project over the winter break.

Debrecen make the longest trek of the round but have to be boosted by clean sheet wins in their last two games against quality sides.  They’ll be without injured captain Dániel Toszér once again but they should be able handle this one without too much trouble. 

Prediction: Haladás 0-2 Debrecen

Honvéd vs Újpest

at Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest

Paul: Another Budapest derby to end the year.  Honvéd have lost their last two matches and hope to end the year strong.  They have fallen to the third spot now in the standings.  This will be a fun match and anything can happen making this one of the toughest matches to prognosticate this week.

Újpest looked brilliant in dispatching Mol Vidi with a nice home victory. They have not lost in their last five matches and have moved up to the fifth position.  Quite a good feat for a squad that has been out of form for most of the season.  Away matches have proved to be a problem but I see them ending the year on a positive note in a high scoring draw and an entertaining match 

Prediction: Honvéd 2-2 Újpest

Chris: Honvéd were limping along with three key players out last week, but Botond Barath and Tonci Kukoc’s returns from suspension should make them less susceptible on defense.  Leading scorer Danilo’s absence also hurt.  For a team that’s struggled to score all season they’ll be in trouble once again if he misses out.

Újpest are coming off a confidence-boosting win over high-flying Vidi last week.  They were able take advantage at home against a tired team who barely put up a fight.  With no suspensions or apparent injuries, Nebojsa Vignjevic has a full squad to call upon and if they can get an early goal they should be home free. It’ll be a close one here but I’m leaning toward a narrow Lilák win.

Prediction: Honvéd 0-1 Újpest

Sunday, 16 December

MOL Vidi vs Ferencváros

at Sóstói Stadion, Székesfehérvár 

Paul:  What a fitting way to end the year in Hungarian football!  Mol Vidi exited European football with a well played match against Chelsea.  Without the pressure of European football, now is the time for them to make up ground in the league.  They should find a way to end the year in front of their home fans.

Ferencváros are up by eight points entering this match and could find themselves up by an overwhelming eleven points with a victory.  They have been up and down in recent times away from home.   This should be an exciting match and a fitting end to 2018.  

Prediction: Vidi 2-1 Ferencváros

Chris:  Vidi have had an exhausting fall season and it showed last week in a 2-0 defeat to Újpest.  They created precious few chances last round and are coming off a draining 2-2 draw against Chelsea this week.  They’ve won both games in their new home without conceding a goal but their opponents this week aren’t just a run-of-the-mill NB1 side. 

Ferencváros will be without injured starting winger Stefan Spirovski again as well veteran forward Daniel Böde who was suspended by the team this week.  Böde launched a verbal tirade against the bench after being subbed out last week and manager Sergei Rebrov has instructed him to take an early start to his winter break.  All this being said, Fradi are in great form and their squad depth should be able to help them increase their lead at the top heading into the break. 

Prediction:  Vidi 1-2 Ferencváros