The “Eternal Derby” raises the curtain on the much-anticipated 2020-21 season.
It’s been a confusing summer of canceled leagues, postponed tournaments and frantic finishes across the world to get football back in sync with where our brains are telling us it should be at this point. With the Champions League final yet to be played and the next season’s CL and EL qualifiers getting under way at the same time, we’re all still scrambling to make sense of this pandemic interruption of what has guided our calendars for years on end.
In Hungary, the start of the season has been delayed a bit. The champions, Ferencváros, haven’t yet been tested in Europe and the pre-season hope of each club has yet to be dashed upon the rocks. But here we go! It all starts back today.
Kicking off this season is the 216th örökragadó where MTK returns to the Hungarian top flight after a second season in the NBII wilderness in the last four years. The NBII champs will be at home to face the NBI champs, Ferencváros, whose last defeat against the 8th district side was four years ago, and that only to a last-gasp penalty by the ineffable Sándor Torghelle.
Here’s a quick look at the two sides kicking off the season today at 18:15 CET.
Finished last season as NBII champions, five points ahead of runners up Budafok. Led by László Lencse who scored 14 goals and 7 assists in 21 games last season, MTK will have to rely heavily upon him as his supporting cast has been thinned. István Bognár (7 goals, 8 assists) is now with Paks and Patrik Vass (6 goals, 1 assist) shifted to Zalaegerszeg at the end of July.
German manager Michael Boris has made a few additions, however, that should bolster them in what they hope to be a successful season back in the top flight. The veteran presence of defender Benjámin Balázs will be helpful while Patrick Ikenne-King will attempt to restart his career (again). The Nigerian right back made just 13 appearances and was mostly forgettable last season at Honvéd.
Some unknowns that could make an impact are Montenegrin goalkeeper Milan Mijatovic and Portuguese center back Thiago Ferreira. Mijatovic, who has been given the #1 shirt after being signed this summer from Levski Sofia in Bulgaria, might just be a solid back to Bence Somodi who carried the lion’s share of duty in goal for MTK last season. Ferreira is likely looking to make an impact in what has been an anonymous career so far.
Player to watch: Look out for 22 year old forward Bence Bíró who returned to Hungary in January after joining Portuguese side Vítoria Guimarães as a teenager six years ago.
Fradi won their 31st title last season. The feat was rarely in doubt as they dominated for most of the season while also carrying a Europe League group stage campaign alongside their domestic schedule. Sergiy Rebrov’s side has really come together as undeniably the most talented squad in the league and are favorites to repeat again this season.
With a few tweaks, Rebrov has managed to keep the core of the team intact with a couple of key additions and subtractions. Goalkeeper Ádám Bogdán was lured back to Hungary from Hibs and should provide a stern test for Fradi’s Denes Dibusz. Defender Adnan Kovacevic is another interesting signing – the former Korona Kielce player brings depth to an already solid defense. He’ll likely fill the minutes of center back Kenny Otigba (13 appearances last season) who has moved on.
Another player we say “so-long” to is veteran Leandro who has been sent to Fradi’s second squad for the start of the season. With Isael in control of the midfield and Rebrov looking to get leaner and stronger, this could be another exciting, hardware-filled season for the Hungarian giants.
Player to watch: Keep an eye on young forward Roko Baturina who scored 8 goals in 16 games for NK Bravo last season in the Slovenian top flight. With another possible European campaign in store for Fradi, the young, former Dinamo Zagreb prospect could turn some heads.
Prediction: MTK 1-2 Ferencváros