Géza Mészöly may insist that Vasas SC's performance so far this season, reaching the turn of the year in third, is "a real surprise", but when the campaign resumes on 21 February the battle for the Hungarian title looks set to be played out between them, Újpest FC and Debreceni VSC.
Debrecen top the table at the winter break, with the club looking to win their fourth title in five seasons having been runners-up to MTK Budapest last season. Tenth in the 16-team table this time around, MTK look to have no chance of winning their 24th domestic title, but local rivals Újpest and, more surprisingly, Vasas are flying the flag for the capital.
The one-time team of the Hungarian Union of Ironworkers, Vasas have won six titles, but none since 1976/77 and nobody expected them to be challenging for a seventh in 2008/09. Ninth last season, Mészöly's side were tipped for a relegation battle, but the club from the northern district of Angyalfold – literally Angelfield – are within five points of the summit.
Mészöly took his side to the Middle East for their winter training camp and was pleased with what he saw. "What we achieved in the autumn campaign was a real surprise for everyone and we should not get carried away. But since we are third we will do everything we can to win the title," he said. "We had a great preparation period in Iran and I really felt the power of our team spirit."
Whether that team spirit will be affected by the departure of star midfielder Norbert Németh is an issue that most Vasas fans may prefer not to gloss over. The 27-year-old is on trial with Russian side FC Tom Tomsk, having scored eight goals in 15 league games in the autumn, and should the Premier-Liga club choose to sign him, Vasas would lose one of their most impressive performers.
Debrecen spent their mid-season break in Turkey and, like second-placed Újpest, made no major squad change. Újpest forward Tibor Tisza, meanwhile, is hoping a settled group will pay off for the violet-and-whites. "We have the best attack in the league," said the 25-year-old. "We have been together long enough now that we can focus our teamwork on attack so I would not be surprised if we score a lot of goals in the spring."
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