Counter-Strike – Week 3 of ESL Pro League season 7
Leonard Schilcher – ESL Gaming
Most EU teams have played roughly a third of their matches and in Na’Vi and Space Soldiers, we have two surprising rosters at the top.
NA is lagging a bit behind with fewer matches played overall, which makes it more difficult to better understand who the favorites for this season are, especially as Cloud9 and SK have had disappointing results so far. NRG surprisingly leads the league with a clean record of 6-0 and no signs of slowing down.
Let’s look at both regions in more detail.
Two major, unexpected roster moves came our way past week out of G2’s and Fnatic’s camp.
When the French super team was born at the beginning of last year, expectations were huge, too huge in hindsight, as the players were never quite able to fulfill them. Especially in the most recent months, it became apparent that the squad was falling apart. G2 haven’t won a single playoff series since winning DH Masters Malmö in September, which is just staggering. Finally the org reacted by benching shox and SmithZz, and bringing in mixwell while NBK will take over as IGL.
Unfortunately, the French side won’t be able to use mixwell in this week’s crucial matches against Astralis, mouz and NiP, as he’s currently in China for WESG. G2 had a bad start into the season, and if they don’t add a few wins to their record (2W-6L), their season might be beyond salvageable.
While this move makes sense, Fnatic’s supposed player substitution comes completely out of left field. The org still hasn’t confirmed the move, but reliable reports say Xizt is coming in to replace Golden.
The Swedish team has continuously been improving over the past months, even winning IEM Katowice, their first event victory in two years. We can only hope that this move won’t set them back. Xizt has a higher damage output than Golden, and is more skilled, but changing an IGL who has been steadily improving the team, seems like a crazy risk to take.
The current European league leader, Na’Vi, also made headlines, when S1mple and flamie announced that they wouldn’t be travelling to China for WESG. Hopefully, that doesn’t indicate internal difficulties, as the Ukrainians finally showed promise with their roster.
Match Of The Week – Astralis vs. North
Once again, it’s derby time as the two Danish giants fight for reign over Viking territory.
Of course, the roster carousel rotated like crazy in Denmark during the off-season. North promoted mertz from their own academy team, before poaching Kjaerbye from Astralis in a stunning move.
Astralis, forced to act quickly as the trade deadline was imminent, got lucky finding adequate replacement in Magisk. But that doesn’t change the fact, that device & Co. feel betrayed by Kjaerbye, who waited until the very last second to announce his decision and purposefully ignored his teammates efforts to find out what was happening. It goes without saying that there is a lot on the line in this match because of these developments.
The teams are meeting on Nuke and Inferno. Especially the former map is historically a good one for Astralis, whereas North should be favored on Inferno. The two teams are only two points apart, but there’s more on the line than points in this match-up. Both will fight to prove a point – Astralis that Kjaerbye was wrong to leave, Kjaerbye and North the exact opposite – expect fireworks.
A quiet week awaits in NA with only 6 matches, or 12 maps in total. As already pointed out, SK and C9 are struggling to exert the same dominance over EPL NA they used to.
Of course it’s just fair to mention that four of SK’s six losses were more or less unavoidable – a forfeit against Liquid and an extreme ping disadvantage against NRG, playing from Germany. Still, with SK one always gets the feeling that, when the going gets tough, they can shift up a gear and make it happen. So, despite their six losses, their season is far from over.
Cloud9 on the other hand already missed last season’s finals due to some bad online performances. They weren’t major winners then, and they also weren’t nearly as strong as they are now. Of course a top six placing is still easily attainable for them, if they take their online matches seriously and use their skill advantage over most opponents.
No one expected to see NRG at the top of the standings. But who has watched them play, knows it isn’t a coincidence either. They have four extremely skilled youngsters and a veteran in daps. I’m excited to see what NRG can bring in a LAN environment, hopefully at the Finals in Dallas.
Luminosity is also playing another solid season, sitting on second place with eight matches and 16 points. It’s incredible how many strong players are coming out of Brazil.
Match Of The Week – Team Liquid vs. Renegades
The rise of NA has been a hot topic in recent months. Cloud9 winning the major got the ball rolling, but by now, Team Liquid have arguably even taken the top spot in the region with their victory at cs_summit 2 and a third place at SL i-League.
A huge contributing factor to Liquid’s success is NAF, who’s playing like a top 5 player in the world right now and who previously played for Renegades.
Losing NAF was a huge blow for the Aussie-NA and now with jkaem’s addition also Norwegian mix. We’ve seen very little of jkaem in the past year, but ever since joining Renegades he reminds us more and more of the kind of player he was when he reached peak form under FaZe.
The two teams are meeting on Mirage and Cbble and especially on the latter, Liquid should be almost impossible to beat, regarded as one of the world’s best sides with a win percentage of 75% in the past three months.
But on Mirage, Renegades have a shot at winning, it being one of Liquid’s worst maps. There’s also always that special dynamic when playing against a former teammate that could propel Renegades into unexpected heights, the same of course goes the other way too and we might see a wild NAF tearing apart his old team, which is the more likely outcome in this match-up.
We’re back for week 3!
As always we will be returning with more EPL action from both regions on Tuesday.
Tune into the here to watch your favorite teams battle for a spot in the offline finals in Dallas. If you want to watch the season finals, you can purchase tickets here.