Update from 30.04.2018
Ru Ru

ESL ESEA Pro League Finals preview

We have put together a preview featuring all eight participants at this week's ESL ESEA Pro League Finals, where $250,000 will be given out in prize money.

After a lengthy online season that paid out $250,000 in prize money - adding up to half a million in total - the Finals are finally here with four best teams from each continent.

If you missed the online portion, you can find all the final placings in this news post, including the split of $250,000 that went to each of the twenty-four participating teams.

ESL ESEA Pro League Finals will be played starting with a best-of-one group stage, played out using the GSL format, with the top three finishers advancing from each of the two groups:

 

Group A Group B
 Cloud9  fnatic
 Virtus.pro  Keyd Stars
 Luminosity  Team SoloMid
 EnVyUs  CLG

 

With three teams advancing from each group, it means the usual elimination game is not played at all - instead, the traditional loser's match will determine the third team to make the playoffs.

Day two will see best-of-three quarter-finals - between second and third place finishers from opposite groups - taking place. Saturday is reserved for best-of-three semi-finals. 

Finally, Sunday - the final day of competition in Cologne - will see the best-of-five grand final taking place, finalizing the standings for the prize purse, distributed as follows:

 

1. $100,000
2. $60,000
3-4. $25,000
5-6. $12,500
7-8. $7,500

 

You can find the full schedule for the event here. Bear in mind the first matches are scheduled, and ESL ESEA will begin later games as soon as possible, with no exact times laid out.

With the rules laid out, let's take a deeper look at the eight participants of ESL ESEA Pro League's Finals ahead of the $250,000 tournament - the biggest non-Valve prize purse in CS:GO's history.

 

Will this Cologne event end as memorably as the last one? (photo hltv.org)

 

  Cloud9

First round of ESL ESEA Pro League Finals will pit Cloud9 up against EnVyUs - the team they beat on de_train in overtime after a massive comeback at Gfinity last weekend. This time the match will be played using a best-of-one format, which certainly makes the task easier for the North Americans, who are still trying to prove their new lineup's worth after the additions of Ryan "fREAKAZOiD" Abadir and Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, who have yet to help C9 to a meaningful result across the pond.

Gfinity Summer Masters I wasn't a bad showing by Cloud9 - apart from the last map where they fell apart versus Virtus, and the second map in the EnVyUs series, they played good Counter-Strike. The problem is they won't be getting very far by playing good Counter-Strike 60% of the time when facing the world's best teams, four of whom are present in Cologne, with two residing in the same group with Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert and company, eyeing the three playoff spots.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
27 Jun  Cloud9 5-16   Virtus.pro  de_train Gfinity Summer
27 Jun  Cloud9 13-16  Virtus.pro de_overpass Gfinity Summer
26 Jun  Cloud9 12-16  EnVyUs de_cache Gfinity Summer
26 Jun  Cloud9 2-16  EnVyUs de_inferno Gfinity Summer
26 Jun  Cloud9 19-16  EnVyUs de_train Gfinity Summer
22 Jun  Cloud9 16-5  Luminosity de_cache ESL ESEA
20 Jun  Cloud9 16-7  Luminosity de_inferno FACEIT
20 Jun  Cloud9 16-9  CLG de_inferno FACEIT
19 Jun  Cloud9 16-8  Luminosity de_inferno FACEIT
12 Jun  Cloud9 16-11  CLG de_train CEVO

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

 

Cloud9 are clear underdogs against both EnVyUs and Virtus.pro. Both European sides are clearly superior to Sean "[email protected]" Gares's team, and working out together at the hotel gym will do little to give them extra round wins. The good thing is they are playing best-of-ones in the group stage, and were close enough to taking a map from Virtus.pro as well in London. These two teams aren't unbeatable for Cloud9 by any measure - their core, if you can call it that anymore, has had success against both. It's just not very likely here.

The pressure is on for Cloud9 in their first match, because even though they are all but a lock to move on over Luminosity - whom they hold a 6-0 record over since late May - a third place finish in group A would mean facing a second place finisher in group B - either TSM or fnatic - and direct elimination outside of top four. That's why it's so important for Latham's team to come in hot and steal the map from EnVyUs to start the event, or they should not be playing by Saturday. Besides, even with a win they could face Keyd Stars, who aren't a free-win for them by any means.

 

Player Age Rating *
 Mike "shroud" Grzesiek 21 1.16
 Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham 21 1.11
 Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert 24 1.08
 Ryan "fREAKAZOiD" Abadir 22 0.93
 Sean "[email protected]" Gares 27 0.89

* Player rating for the past 3 months

 

Cloud9 has a good trio in Gilbert, Latham and Mike "shroud" Grzesiek. All three can be high-impact players and are capable of fragging enough against Europeans to win their team maps. In fact, they have all done so in the past. The problem is they yet to do it at the same time - for a prolonged period of even a couple of days - which is why C9 are still missing that signature showing offline. The last time this team made playoffs in Europe was last August.

Expect Cloud9 to play a close map versus EnVyUs and then defeat Luminosity - who will likely play them closer than we expect - to move on to the quarter-finals on Friday. You would have to be a little insane to bet on them against TSM or fnatic in a best-of-three series though, so if you're a Cloud9 fan, you'd better hope they start their campaign in Cologne with a W. Either way, this week should by all means mark Cloud9's return to playoffs.

Prediction: 3rd in group A

 

Cloud9 needs another monster-game from Skadoodle to make the semis (photo hltv.org)

 

 Virtus.pro

Virtus.pro had a rough showing at Gfinity Summer Masters I. It's true they took down Cloud9, a team they may face if the Americans upset EnVyUs, but what our results table is missing below is two series losses to mousesports. Make no mistake, Virtus lost to a good team last weekend in London, but they also didn't play like a team who looked destined to lift a $100,000 check a week later in Germany. The late comeback almost saved them, but they wound up faltering in overtime.

In Cologne the Poles will start off with a match against Luminosity, who should be nothing but a warm-up game for one of the world's best teams. That alone will put Filip "NEO" Kubski's team into the playoffs - and give them a favorable quarter-finals draw - but it doesn't exactly make their semi-finals match-up look any more enticing for fans of the team who won $70,000 at ESEA's last event, the Season 18 Global Finals in Dallas.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
27 Jun  Virtus.pro 16-5  Cloud9 de_dust2 Gfinity Summer
27 Jun  Virtus.pro 16-13  Cloud9 de_overpass Gfinity Summer
24 Jun  Virtus.pro 16-5  EnVyUs de_overpass FACEIT
23 Jun  Virtus.pro 11-16  EnVyUs de_cache E-sport-bets
23 Jun  Virtus.pro 5-16  EnVyUs de_train E-sport-bets
23 Jun  Virtus.pro 12-16  EnVyUs de_dust2 E-sport-bets
23 Jun  Virtus.pro 12-16  fnatic de_overpass FACEIT
23 Jun  Virtus.pro 16-2  EnVyUs de_cache FACEIT
18 Jun  Virtus.pro 2-16  fnatic de_cobblestone ESL ESEA
10 Jun  Virtus.pro 10-16  TSM de_overpass ESL ESEA

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

 

The case for Virtus.pro is simple - they're a team who is said to do better at larger events, and history mostly shows that to be true. Part of that has to do with the fact they attend a lot of tournaments, which makes it impossible for them to prepare adequately for each and every one of them. When things click for them, they are both a team who can front run leads impossible to overcome for the opposition, and come back from horrible deficits. In fact, I'd rate them the one team in Counter-Strike to never count out.

However, there are some warning sings. First of all, the play ofJarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski has taken a large hit in 2015. He has gone from one of the world's very best players to just the fourth bets on his team - per HLTV.org's rating system - and in my opinion his superstar-level play was a big part to Virtus.pro leveling up to become the team who massacred NiP in the EMS One Katowice grand final in front of the cheering Polish audience.

Player Age Rating *
 Paweł "byali" Bieliński 21 1.08
 Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski 21 1.07
 Filip "NEO" Kubski 28 1.05
 Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski 27 1.01
 Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas 29 0.99

* Player rating for the past 3 months

 

Look, the group stage will not send Virtus.pro home. With their first round match-up, it shouldn't even give them an opponent in the quarter-finals whom they aren't favored to beat. If you're a fan of Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski and company, you can expect your team to be competing for the first price check on Saturday. However, at this point it's questionable whether we can realistically expect this Virtus team to be a serious threat to fnatic or TSM in the semi-finals.

It can all change within days - or in their case, sometimes within rounds - and all it takes to turn Virtus.pro into Virtus.plow, is their three stars to play like stars. Little things make the difference there, as is always the case, and with the Poles having such an incredibly high ceiling in their play, you can never count them out. At least we should see them play on Friday, and after that, the margins get small. Small enough to eke out some surprising wins if things click.

Prediction: 2nd in group A

 

kuben needs to whip his boys to shape in a matter of days (photo hltv.org)

 

 Luminosity

Luminosity are best known in Europe for picking up Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi, who for a long time struggled to find a fitting team for him despite obviously being a skilled player capable of competing with the best. Now he's been with the North American team for roughly two months, and their first real test - a tournament with European competition - is ahead of them. In other words,Mourujärvi is back to being the underdog he was before - if he ever stopped being one.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
29 Jun  Luminosity 19-16  Keyd Stars de_cobblestone RGN
29 Jun  Luminosity 16-5  Keyd Stars de_inferno RGN
29 Jun  Luminosity 7-16  Keyd Stars de_mirage RGN
24 Jun  Luminosity 16-10  CLG de_mirage FACEIT
22 Jun  Luminosity 5-16  Cloud9 de_cache ESL ESEA
21 Jun  Luminosity 14-16  Keyd Stars de_train iBP Summer
21 Jun  Luminosity 5-16  Keyd Stars de_inferno iBP Summer
21 Jun  Luminosity 16-13  Keyd Stars de_dust2 iBP Summer
20 Jun  Luminosity 7-16  Cloud9 de_inferno FACEIT
19 Jun  Luminosity 8-16  Cloud9 de_inferno FACEIT

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

 

Luminosity's problem is the fact they would have to take down either Virtus.pro, EnVyUs or Cloud9 to make the playoffs at ESL ESEA Pro League's Finals. Given a group with Keyd Stars - a team they've had multiple close matches against back home - they could have done it. Unfortunately, their track record against Cloud9 is far worse. As mentioned in Cloud9's text, they're 0-6 against the top dogs since late May, an unimpressive number unlikely to change when there's more pressure.

We saw Peter "ptr" Gurney almost single-handedly upset EnVyUs at MLG X Games in January, so all hope is not lost, but it's safe to say no one should be betting their house on this team to make the playoffs. It's a tough environment with some very good teams - four of the world's five best - including their toughest competition from back home. Simply playing two close games would make it a good showing.

 

Player Age Rating *
 Keith "NAF-FLY" Markovic 17 1.17 
 Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi 21 1.12
 Peter "ptr" Gurney 25 1.07
 Todd "anger" Williams 27 1.06
 Alexander "LeX" Deily 25 0.97

* Player rating for the past 3 months

 

For teams like Luminosity the format is brutal. They don't get a lot of experience in playing against top teams - or to play many matches in general. However, simply getting to travel internationally to a tournament together could prove to be a valuable experience for bonding, if this team plans to stick around for the long haul. One thing is sure - there is zero pressure on Luminosity, and that is probably the best way to go into your first international tournament.

Prediction: 4th in group A

 

pyth's North American team will have its international debut (photo hltv.org)

 

 EnVyUs

After the dark days of spring that saw EnVyUs drop online games to multiple lower ranked teams, and get knocked out in the group stage of a Gfinity event, it seems the French fan favorites are back after a convincing grand final besting of NiP in London, that saw vintage Richard "shox" Papillon make an appearance to score his seventh straight grand final victory over the Ninjas who seem to be no challenge for the nV star.

The BoysInBlue are favored to win group A. However, as seen in London, they are also capable of dropping a map against Cloud9 - which could prove disastrous to their hopes of making the semi-finals in Cologne. The Frenchmen are underdogs against both fnatic and TSM, and a 5-6th place finish would definitely not be what they traveled to Germany for. That is why it's so important forVincent "Happy" Cervoni to lead his team to two wins in group A, getting a direct pass to the semi-finals.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
30 Jun  EnVyUs 19-21  fnatic de_inferno FACEIT
29 Jun  EnVyUs 13-16  TSM de_inferno FACEIT
26 Jun  EnVyUs 16-12  Cloud9 de_cache Gfinity Summer
26 Jun  EnVyUs 16-2  Cloud9 de_inferno Gfinity Summer
26 Jun  EnVyUs 16-19  Cloud9 de_train Gfinity Summer
24 Jun  EnVyUs 12-16  fnatic de_inferno FACEIT
24 Jun  EnVyUs 5-16  Virtus.pro de_overpass FACEIT
23 Jun  EnVyUs 16-11  Virtus.pro de_cache E-sports-bets
23 Jun  EnVyUs 16-5  Virtus.pro de_train E-sports-bets
23 Jun  EnVyUs 16-12  Virtus.pro de_dust2 E-sports-bets

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

 

Though EnVyUs lost de_train to Cloud9 in London, there are some key takeaways. First of all they wound up losing a big lead to take the game to overtime. Second, they lost both pistol rounds, and actually went down 0-5 as terrorists - though to be fair, Cervoni's one-on-three heroics effectively nullified that pistol round disadvantage. Finally, you know they will play with a different kind of focus when they know there is no map two to bail them out.

Unfortunately for EnVy, they are playing Cloud9 in their first match of the event, and the first match can always be a little tricky - if nothing else, at least it's the best chance C9 would have at an upset. They've also recently split multiple maps with Virtus.pro - beyond our ten games listed above - and could clearly lose that game to the Polish side, effectively giving them a quarter-finals date against TSM or fnatic on Friday - something they are dying to avoid.

 

Player Age Rating * 
 Vincent "Happy" Cervoni 23 1.14
 Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt 21 1.05
 Richard "shox" Papillon 23 1.04
 Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey 20 1.03
 Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux 26 0.93

* Player rating for the past 3 months

 

Something that may be interesting given the format - which forces you to win your first game to make the top two in the group stage - is that EnVy are somewhat slow starters. They've lost the first map of the day to CLG at MLG X Games, to GPlay at recent SLTV Finals, to FlipSid3 on a later day of the SLTV Finals, and to Cloud9 at Gfinity. It's by no means a guarantee they won't be in tip top shape come the first round of play in Cologne, but it's a run that isn't promising if you're their fan.

A win at Gfinity Summer Masters I should have boosted morale in the nV camp, and despite their recent - comparative - struggles, they're still one of the world's best three teams. The margin for error is small, and they could both drop a favored map in the group stage, or overcome a tough best-of-three as underdogs to make the semis. Either way would work, but Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt and company would surely prefer a day off on Friday, and a chance to not face the top two teams before the semi-finals.

Prediction: 1st in group A

 

EnVyUs's recent results are encouraging (photo hltv.org)

 

 fnatic

Well, before we get into the business, let's just take a look at the eight most recent games in fnatic's match list below. They are against EnVyUs, TSM and Virtus.pro - the world's other top four teams - and all ended in a Black and Orange win. In addition to that, the list below ignores the fact fnatic won DreamHack Summer convincingly without losing a map - as none of the games were versus ESL ESEA Pro League Finals participants - a great resume, just the kind you'd expect from the world's best team.

Yes, I said the world's best. TSM's inactivity has to be accounted for, and fnatic have not only mostly beaten all of their competition in 2015, but ran through them in a fashion that at times made watching fnatic play seem unfair. Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer has to be considered the world's best player at this point, and Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson isn't far apart. Add in the impact plays ofJesper "JW" Wecksell and Robin "flusha" Rönnquist slowly chipping away at you, and it's no wonder they are the best in business.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
30 Jun  fnatic 21-19  EnVyUs de_inferno FACEIT
29 Jun  fnatic 16-3  TSM de_cache FACEIT
24 Jun  fnatic 16-12  EnVyUs de_inferno FACEIT
23 Jun  fnatic 16-12  Virtus.pro de_overpass FACEIT
18 Jun  fnatic 16-2  Virtus.pro de_cobblestone ESL ESEA
9 Jun  fnatic 16-12  EnVyUs de_overpass Aftonbladet
9 Jun  fnatic 16-11  EnVyUs de_inferno Aftonbladet
9 Jun  fnatic 16-9  EnVyUs de_train Aftonbladet
9 Jun  fnatic 5-16  EnVyUs de_cobblestone Aftonbladet
7 Jun  fnatic 7-16  TSM de_dust2 fb Masters

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

 

With that said, fnatic has had a clear kryptonite in the spring, and it is called Team SoloMid. fnatic's track record since early March stands at 11-19 in maps versus the Danish team - they lost the grand finals of both fragbite Masters and CCS Finals to them, and got bounced in the semi-finals of FACEIT Finals - and despite their recent 16-3 win online, it doesn't seem like they have yet figured out Nicolai "device" Reedtz's team. However, that doesn't mean they aren't favored.

TSM notably missed out on most of June's tournaments due to school commitments of their players. All else aside, it probably has also affected TSM's preparation for this tournament and cut down on their practice in recent weeks, which should give fnatic a tiny edge when it comes to their eventual date on Thursday. And as NiP well knows from the fall of 2013, small losses can quickly snowball into giving the other team the confidence it may lack to start winning the games when they get close.

 

Player Age Rating *
 Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer 23 1.19
 Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson 21 1.15
 Jesper "JW" Wecksell 20 1.13
 Robin "flusha" Rönnquist 21 1.09
 Markus "pronax" Wallsten 24 0.93

* Player rating for the past 3 months

 

In the opening round fnatic will face CLG, who they beat around without issues at ESEA Finals in April. Granted, they've since changed a player, and had nearly ten weeks to prepare. In any case, the team coached by Viktor "vuggo" Jendeby should have no issues there. And then they should, by all means, face TSM, all of a sudden making the event much more interesting, at least for some forty-five minutes on Thursday evening.

A win in the group would guarantee fnatic a semi-finals finish and guarantee they can make the grand final without having to face TSM again. A loss would mean they'd have to go through either EnVyUs or Virtus.pro to book a top four finish. They'd still be favored in either series, but it's close enough that they would definitely want to avoid the extra day of matches. Luckily TSM's inactivity should play into fnatic's hands, and give them the upper hand on Thursday. Sunday might be a different story.

Prediction: 1st in group B

 

olofmeister is currently the game's hottest player (photo hltv.org)

 

 Keyd Stars

Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and Fernando "fer" Alvarenga have come a looong way since the KaBuM.TD days that saw them crash out of ESWC group stage. After re-tooling their team they beat Cloud9 at MLG X Games, only to win seven rounds combined versus NiP and the current TSM team. At ClutchCon they took de_mirage from fnatic, and at the offline qualifier for Katowice they defeated INSHOCK, and surprisingly, Jacob "Pimp" Winneche's dignitas, to clinch a spot at the major. In Poland they made playoffs after wins against HellRaisers and CLG, and even took a map off of Virtus.pro.

The team also moved to North America, where they've stayed active in a number of online leagues, and apparently faced a couple of other teams other than Luminosity, who fill their most recent ten matches table below. They finished ESL ESEA Pro League's online portion 17-5 - though with some DDoS issues, as expected for almost every team by now - and have had slightly inconsistent results with the North American competition.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
29 Jun  Keyd Stars 16-19  Luminosity de_cobblestone RGN
29 Jun  Keyd Stars 5-16  Luminosity de_inferno RGN
29 Jun  Keyd Stars 16-7  Luminosity de_mirage RGN
22 Jun  Keyd Stars 16-12  CLG de_cobblestone ESL ESEA
21 Jun  Keyd Stars 16-14  Luminosity de_train iBP Summer
21 Jun  Keyd Stars 16-5  Luminosity de_inferno iBP Summer
21 Jun  Keyd Stars 13-16  Luminosity de_dust2 iBP Summer
12 Jun  Keyd Stars 31-27  Luminosity de_mirage ESL ESEA
11 Jun  Keyd Stars 16-6  Cloud9 de_overpass ESL ESEA
3 Jun  Keyd Stars 10-16  Luminosity de_inferno FACEIT

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

 

Having already qualified for the next major with a top eight finish in Katowice, the Brazilians compete for another $250,000 prize purse this week in Cologne. They have a very realistic chance to make playoffs again - though probably only in third place - and could even make the semi-finals. Great development from a team not many thought could mount a serious challenge on the global Counter-Strike scene as little as six months ago.

First round in Cologne will pit Toledo's team against TSM, who have looked borderline unstoppable at their most recent tournaments. The good thing for Keyd Stars is it's been a while since those supposedly recent tournaments, which opens up a window for a best-of-one game where everything clicks - even if it seems impossible. Most likely Keyd Stars will play CLG for a playoff spot, and that game will effectively either make or break the event for the team led by Alvarenga's fragging.

 

Player Age Rating *
 Fernando "fer" Alvarenga 23 1.24
 Caio "zqkS" Fonseca 23 1.10
 Ricardo "boltz" Prass 18 1.06
 Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo 24 1.05
 Lucas "steel" Lopes 21 0.98

* Player rating for the past 3 months

 

The Brazilians defeated a slightly different CLG team at ESL One Katowice, and have since bested them twice since late May. I reckon they should make the playoffs, and that's where they can truly make their mark in Cologne. Keyd Stars were dominated by Virtus.pro in their Katowice series - winning just five rounds in two maps, despite a win on de_overpass in overtime - and are clear underdogs. Still, it's not unthinkable that they could beat an up and down Virtus team this week.

Realistic expectation for this team is a loss to TSM, followed by a win over CLG - though the odds are very close in the latter game - and then a loss on Friday to end their tournament. Having them playing so actively in North America has removed much of the mystery that used to surround this team, but don't put it behind them to still have some secrets they haven't unvealed in North America, where they haven't attended tournaments yet.

Prediction: 3rd in group B

 

fer has been Keyd Stars's best player in 2015 (photo hltv.org)

 

 Team SoloMid

Despite having won their three most recent tournaments in a fairly convincing fashion and holding a 19-11 map record over fnatic since early March, TSM are in some sort of a challenger mode as far as competing for the biggest title and largest payday for all five of their players' careers. Their inactivity has made people question - with reason, if history is any indication - whether it's possible they've lost a step, or if other teams have simply gained ground on them while their players have been taking exams in the class room.

TSM are not playing CEVO and boast a measly 6-6 record in FACEIT, including an ugly 3-16 loss to fnatic just days ago. They missed out on Gfinity Summer Masters I and DreamHack Summer, and also withdrew from ESWC, set to take place a week after action ends in Cologne. The Danes simply aren't as active - and for the record, never have been - as some of their peers. That's a shame from the fans' perspective, but it also should - in theory, anyway, if their players aren't stuck in school - give them a chance to be better prepared.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
29 Jun  TSM 3-16  fnatic de_cache FACEIT
29 Jun  TSM 16-13  EnVyUs de_inferno FACEIT
16 Jun  TSM 13-16  EnVyUs de_dust2 ESL ESEA
10 Jun  TSM 16-10  Virtus.pro de_overpass ESL ESEA
7 Jun  TSM 16-7  fnatic de_dust2 fb Masters
7 Jun  TSM 16-11  fnatic de_inferno fb Masters
7 Jun  TSM 7-16  fnatic de_mirage fb Masters
7 Jun  TSM 16-5  fnatic de_cobblestone fb Masters
7 Jun  TSM 16-8  fnatic de_inferno fb Masters
7 Jun  TSM 16-8  fnatic de_cache fb Masters

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

Other teams probably haven't figure TSM out all of a sudden, and if Finn "karrigan" Andersen has been doing his work while his three stars have kept in shape, this team could easily exit Cologne $100,000 richer. However, odds are probably against them being in the same shape they exited fragbite Masters Finals in. Time gets everyone, and unless you're drinking the KoolAid, there isn't much of a reason to think it shouldn't hurt TSM as well. Then it simply becomes a question of how big the effect is.

Take 10% off their game, and they can still be good enough to win the tournament. Take more, and they might not make the grand final. In any case, you should expect the Danes to move on from the group stage as a top two finisher, because the skill gap between them and fnatic and the two challengers - Keyd Stars and CLG - is large enough to give them some cushion to make mistakes early on. A win in the group would still be important.

 

Player Age Rating *
 Nicolai "device" Reedtz 19 1.17
 René "cajunb" Borg 25 1.09
 Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen 22 1.08
 Finn "karrigan" Andersen 25 1.02
 Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth 19 0.95

* Player rating for the past 3 months

 

Winner of each group advances directly to the semi-finals, which means avoiding an early series against either EnVyUs or Virtus.pro, in all likelihood. Neither is a death penalty to TSM, naturally, but also not a prospect they should be excited to face in a round of elimination they could just as well avoid altogether. Which leaves us with fnatic, the team they boast a strong record against, yet have given a chance to play catch-up.

TSM should absolutely win versus the Brazilians in their opener. That will put them through to playoffs. Then it simply comes down to the fnatic game. Though TSM's record suggests they should win, history doesn't predict the future, and my guess is the Danes will have to plug in their mice on Friday as well, but it might end up working in their favor - extra practice, assuming it doesn't send them packing, can actually be a good thing. 

Prediction: 2nd in group B

 

Can karrigan lead his team to their largest championship yet? (photo hltv.org)

 

 CLG

CLG have the gargantuan task of facing fnatic in their first match of the tournament. It's always fun to compare yourself to the world's best, but I would guess that's not how the Americans would like to begin their day in Cologne. Tarik "tarik" Celik's teams recent match record against other ESL ESEA Pro League attendees is poor - a 2-8 record, including a map win in a lost best-of-three - and that is all from matches in the Americas, without European competition.

 

Date Team Score Team Map Event
24 Jun  CLG 10-16  Luminosity de_mirage FACEIT
22 Jun  CLG 12-16  Keyd Stars de_cobblestone ESL ESEA
20 Jun  CLG 9-16  Cloud9 de_inferno FACEIT
17 Jun  CLG 16-11  Luminosity de_mirage FACEIT
12 Jun  CLG 11-16  Cloud9 de_train CEVO
12 Jun  CLG 13-16  Cloud9 de_dust2 CEVO
12 Jun  CLG 13-16  Luminosity de_inferno ESL ESEA
8 Jun  CLG 13-16  Cloud9 de_overpass HTC Reborn
8 Jun  CLG 16-14  Cloud9 de_train HTC Reborn
8 Jun  CLG 13-16  Cloud9 de_inferno HTC Reborn

Ten most recent matches against ESL ESEA Pro League Finals competition

 

This team's chance to advance is definitely their decider against Keyd Stars. fnatic and TSM should be far too good, and far too consistent, to have a risk of losing to either team in group B. As such, Pujan "FNS" Mehta should have focused his tournament preparation efforts on figuring out Keyd Stars's gameplan, and preferably on finding out ways to exploit on the map they are likely to play to the tune of sixteen rounds. If that's not the case, don't expect CLG to play more than two maps in Cologne.

CLG has logged two losses to Keyd Stars online on de_cobblestone, and were eliminated by the Brazilians on de_dust2 at ESL One Katowice, the previous major. In other words, they have yet to take down Toledo's team. That doesn't mean they can't do it, but it's clear they are the odd men out in this group - not unlike Luminosity in group A - whose tournament lives are expected to expire on Thursday.

 

Player Age Rating *
 Tarik "tarik" Celik 19 1.18
 Josh "jdm64" Marzano 25 1.11
 Stephen "reltuC" Cutler 26 1.04
 James "hazed" Cobb 26 1.01
 Pujan "FNS" Mehta 23 1.00

* Player rating for the past 3 months

The key to CLG's play is they have no pressure. They are clear underdogs even within their group, and should be able to play without expectations. I wouldn't be surprised if Celik had a good match and it propelled CLG to the quarter-finals over Keyd Stars, but I also realize it's possible they may get blown away twice. Anything they get out of this one should be considered an added bonus, but they may only have a disappointment looming ahead in Cologne.

Prediction: 4th in group B

 

tarik will have to shine for his team to make the playoffs (photo hltv.org)

 

In addition to this pre-event preview, we will also be posting a separate statistical mini preview for each playoff match, assuming the teams have history of playing each other.

 

Source: HLTV.org