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Hungarian title race expands

Published: Friday 6 August 2004, 15.00CET
The Hungarian First Division kicks off on Saturday with an extra four teams in the top flight. features

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Published: Friday 6 August 2004, 15.00CET

Hungarian title race expands

The Hungarian First Division kicks off on Saturday with an extra four teams in the top flight.

It is all change in Hungary as the new domestic season kicks off on Saturday with an extra four teams bidding for First Division glory.

Expanded division
This summer's reorganisation at the Hungarian Football League (MLL) and Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) means that supporters will be able to watch 16 clubs in the top flight this season compared with just 12 last year.

Play-off winners
All First Division teams escaped relegation last term as the top four sides from the second division moved up to complete the new structure, although the bottom two clubs in the the top flight, Békéscsabai EFC and Haladás FC, had to play off against second-tier opponents to ensure their places among the élite.

Licence refused
An inability to meet club licensing requirements deprived Diósgyöri FC of their top-flight berth, but fans in Miskolc will still get First Division football as Balaton FC, fourth last year, have relocated to the city in a bid for new fans and sponsors. Balaton are not the only team to uproot this summer – Haladás are transferring from Szombathely to Papa.

Comings and goings
Close-season transfer activity has been frantic, with champions and Hungarian Cup winners Ferencvárosi TC to the fore. New coach Csaba László has brought in teenager Dániel Tozsér from Galatasaray SK, ex-international midfielder Gábor Zavadszky from rivals MTK Hungária FC and Czech Robert Vagner from Germany's FC Energie Cottbus.

Moving on
However, Hungary captain Zoltán Gera will be badly missed after his move to English Premiership side West Bromwich Albion FC, and fellow internationals Attila Dragóner and Attila Tököli have also left ahead of the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie against AC Sparta Praha. Victory in that encounter would result in a group stage berth - and a huge shot in the arm for Hungarian football.

Coming home
Another player heading for England is Sándor Torghelle, who has quit MTK for Crystal Palace FC. However, Béla Illés returns to MTK after six months at Haladás and midfielder Norbert Németh has joined from Györi ETO FC.

Crowd pleasers
Elsewhere, followers of Debreceni VSC, third last term, can look forward to watching international right-back Ádám Komlósi and Leonardo Ferreira Coelho, who has arrived on loan from CR Vasco da Gama. Former Romania defender Tibor Selymes and Hungary vice-captain Tamás Szekeres have departed, though, the latter for MFC Sopron.

Likely struggle
Finally, last season's second division champions and Hungarian Cup runners-up, Budapest Honvéd FC, will play Polish side KS Amica Wronki in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round - a welcome distraction from what could be a struggle for top-flight survival.

Last updated: 06/08/04 14.39CET