The ELEAGUE Premiere groups were confirmed last week and the star-studded lineup is already generating a great deal of buzz ahead of what is shaping up to be a one-of-a-kind clash of Counter-Strike’s greatest. Following some roster movement among the teams invited and gazing back at a few shocking results at ESL One Cologne, the first weekend heats are looking dicey.
Frags and smokes are set to fly Saturday with Group A leading off the action – we take a closer look at which team will ride off into the sunset in this week’s ESI: Gambling Report, powered by Thunderpick.
Astralis vs. Cloud9
Coming off what was an extremely premature exit from ESL One Cologne, Astralis have some reshaping to do at the ELEAGUE Arena this weekend. The Danes have been heavy favourites the last several months – having collected a number of title finishes in undeviating fashion, it seemed like we had entered an ‘Astralis Era’. That was before of course, Na’Vi knocked them out in Cologne; albeit, the skirmish between the two was close, the matchup showed us that Astralis could be pressured into a loss. Pertaining this matchup, Cloud9 should, by all means, be duck soup for the Danish superteam. The team recently announced the departure of two of their lead fraggers – Tarik “Tarik” Celik and Jake “Stewie2k” Yip – putting a serious hitch in the side of the squad and projected finish at this event. Cloud9 is likely to field Maikil “Golden” Selim and Martin “STYKO” Styk in place of the fleeting duo; while some might claim this as a ‘new look’ for Cloud9, it’s more probable they’ll sink fast against the Danes like they did in Cologne.
The bout between MIBR and Liquid will be the more evenly matched clash of the two in the first group. In terms of pure talent, these two teams are each sporting one of the best-looking rosters in CS:GO – however, this is a far cry from what either squad will be able to accomplish collectively as a team. Since Epitácio “TACO” de Melo’s exit, the newly rebranded MIBR has struggled to find their footing and get back to their winning ways. Tarik and Stewie2k were announced recently as transfers to join the Brazilian’s starting-five at ELEAGUE, adding quite a bit of firepower to that roster; ultimately though, we have mixed feelings on how this will play out at the end of the day. MIBR is bursting at the seams with talent at this point, however, it’s hard to overlook the inclusion of two Americans into their historically all-Brazilian cast. It’s tough to imagine the newly minted group will be able to go deep in Atlanta in such a short period of time, but who knows – they certainly have the aptness for it.
As for Liquid, the team has undeniably wrestled to achieve what was expected of them following the acquisition of TACO. Having grappled with yet another skilled lineup and not making any adjustments to the current roster, it seems Liquid is doubling down on ironing out the flaws within the team. After a widely disappointing finish in Cologne, seeing themselves on the losing side against BIG and North, the only hope for Liquid is that they spent a considerable amount of time smoothing out the edges since then. Most books are pinning the matchup between the two as deadeven, but given Liquid’s form as of late, this one should be a hard fought victory for MIBR.
Na’Vi vs. Fnatic
Na’Vi is the group on every team’s radar succeeding their stunning ESL One Cologne title finish; stepping onto German soil as the dark horse, Na’Vi put on a true spectacle on their way up from the lower bracket. Along the way, the European squad would be pitted against the favourites, Astralis, who were expected to win by a long-shot. The series would see 80 gruelling rounds between the two, in which Na’Vi would just barely edge past the Danes; the matchup exhibited Na’Vi’s stamina in playing drawn-out matches against high-level teams.
Once again looking back at Cologne, Fnatic would fall to Na’Vi without taking a map – at times though, Fnatic leaned on them heavily, taking eight uninterrupted rounds late on Overpass was just one example. Fnatic is a team capable of brandishing their prowess at any unexpected moment – they even disposed of BIG with ease in Cologne while being boosted by thousands of German fans. All in all, the Swedes are just too unpredictable to pin as victors here while the squadron that is Na’Vi has a more reliable and sound foundation – especially given the form that Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Denis “electronic” Sharipov have been in. We’re not saying this is a signed-and-delivered contest between the two, Fnatic is certainly capable of an upset here – however, more than likely Na’Vi will overpower the Swedes again.
FaZe vs. Mousesports
Fans of FaZe Clan are rejoicing as they welcome back three-time champion Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer into their lineup following a four-month break due to undisclosed personal reasons. It’s safe to say there were mixed emotions with respect to letting go of Jorgen “cromen” Robertsen, who filled in as a sub in Olof’s absence and aided in achieving a couple semi-finals finishes as well as a title win at ESL One Belo Horizonte. Olof’s return seemed long overdue, and everyone, either apart of or enthusiasts of the FaZe Clan organisation, are thrilled to have him back onboard in time for the ELEAGUE Premier – the only question lies in that of how his performance will be after such a lengthy holiday.
The announcement was made on July 10, and assuming that was Olof’s first day back on the job that would leave him with just under two weeks of preparation following whatever he was going through during his leave; the 26-year-old Swede has a hell of a lot of blue blood in him though, so getting back to his prizewinner outline swiftly doesn’t seem unachievable. Mousesports on the other hand, is another team with a deep talent pool to draw from; Miikka “suNny” Kemppi and Chris “chrisJ” de Jong are anticipated to hold down the fortress in this European showdown against FaZe; if the pair can get going early in this heat, it’s very possible they can upset FaZe and a few others at the ELEAGUE Premier. Mousesports is a wildcard here, there’s really no indicator of when they will produce great results; even if they are able to clinch a victory against FaZe – which is a conceivable outcome for them – they haven’t shown the endurance necessary to win a tournament of this calibre.
This matchup could go either way, but we’re leaning towards FaZe on the basis of their consistency and return of Olof as the driver of their victory.
Regardless of who you’re rooting for, the ELEAGUE Premier will undoubtedly deliver on some premier CS:GO gameplay (no pun intended). There is a deep talent pool and no margin for error among these eight top-tier teams, so expect to see some carnage ahead of playoffs next weekend. If you do plan to wager on any of the matches available, Esports Insider reminds you to always bet responsibly.