Six key storylines of ESL Pro League S9 Finals

The LAN finals of the ninth season of the biggest and longest standing CS:GO league are ahead of us, with 16 teams, including Liquid and Astralis, traveling to Montpellier, France, to compete for the $600,000 prize pool.

With that in mind, we collected the key storylines of the event, the biggest of which being rooted in the fact that the top two teams of the world are present at a 16-team event for the first time since the Major. However, teams like FaZe and mousesports also have something to prove, as do certain squads below them. With heavyweights such as ENCE and Natus Vincere, as well as some squads that have recently risen to prominence, like Vitality and FURIA, not present in France, the ESL Pro League S9 Finals could be a tournament where we will we see a new team break out, or an established one make big strides forward.

Liquid are looking to leave the competition behind with another win

The ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals will take place from June 18-23, utilizing ESL's tried-and-tested format with two double-elimination groups, and a single-elimination six-team playoff bracket that culminates with a BO5 grand final.

The two groups are as follows:

Below you can find EGB.com's betting odds for the event as of June 17th:

Team: Rate (Ratio)
Denmark Astralis: 3.928 (22.91%)
United States Liquid: 5.590 (16.10%)
Europe FaZe: 6.787 (13.26%)
Europe mousesports: 8.079 (11.14%)
Sweden fnatic: 10.949 (8.22%)
Denmark North: 14.754 (6.10%)
Brazil MIBR: 16.158 (5.57%)
France G2: 19.956 (4.51%)
United States NRG: 23.302 (2.28%)
Denmark Heroic: 59.211(1.52%)
Other Other: 18.256 (4.93%)

Without further ado, let's go through the key storylines of ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals:

Astralis and Liquid at the same event once again

Endless matchups between Astralis and Liquid defined CS:GO in 2018, with the one-sidedness of the rivalry being key to Astralis building their era as one of the most dominant teams in the history of the game. With the turn of the year, Liquid managed to break their losing streak against the Danes, as well as add two Big Event trophies to their cabinet, but they did so without asserting dominance over Astralis directly. Since the start of 2019, the two teams have only met at three events, iBUYPOWER Masters in January (2-1 for Liquid), BLAST São Paulo in March (groups 16-13 for Astralis, grand final 2-1 for Astralis), and BLAST Miami in April (16-14 for Liquid).

The satisfaction of defeating your nemesis in a really meaningful match is something Liquid have not been able to taste yet, though. While claiming the No.1 spot in the rankings and winning IEM Sydney and DreamHack Masters Dallas were surely enjoyable feats, it is hard to imagine Liquid not wanting to beat Astralis directly, lift a trophy from a tournament where the Danes are also in attendance, and prove to even the most die-hard Astralis fans who the best team in the world is. And there has never been a better chance to do so than at the ESL Pro League S9 Finals.

The two titans could cross paths in France

There is no need to go into Astralis' scheduling and event prioritization over the last three months as it has been discussed in great depth and is now behind us; what happens next is what matters. Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander and co. arrive in France after their first group stage exit with this lineup in a tournament with best-of-threes (over 16 months), after losing a BO1 and a BO3 to FURIA at the ECS S7 Finals. Their image of an unbeatable squad, a perfectly-oiled machine, is now shattered, and with that, even teams lower in the rankings will be looking for ways to upset Astralis, especially with the Danes' apparent weakness against aggressive plays having been exposed and their unbeatable Nuke streak having turned into a losing one.

Astralis are still no pushovers, and considering the BO3-heavy format at ESL Pro League Finals and the fact that the level of the playing field is not the highest, the Danes should slowly build back their match fitness and show that they are better than what they displayed in the FURIA matches in London. In interviews, gla1ve commented that practice had not been ideal going into ECS, and Emil "Magisk" Reif's sickness surely didn't help there either, although he was still the team's best performer at the event alongside Nicolai "device" Reedtz. The rest of the team struggled individually, ring rust affected their firepower and that is backed in the stats as well. In the last three months, Astralis have averaged just 0.82 multikills per round on LAN —only FURIA have done worse among top 10 teams —, while they continue to excel in the utility department with a 30.3 ADR — their closest top 10 rival being Liquid at 24.4.

On the other side, Liquid's recent results have been almost impeccable - a second-place finish at cs_summit being sandwiched by two Big Event wins -, with the main trio of Keith "NAF" Markovic, Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken and Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski all in form. A win here would also be a big step towards the Intel Grand Slam, as Liquid would go up to three wins. Their time to make closing issues a thing of the past and reach greatness is now.

Is NEO viable long term?

What seemed like a desperate move when it was announced worked out fine initially. Under Filip "NEO" Kubski, FaZe showed improved form in Dallas, going toe to toe with the likes of Liquid and ENCE and placing 3-4th, a respectable result considering how long they had been playing under their new in-game leader.

The Polish veteran, expectedly, isn't lighting up the scoreboard himself, but, more importantly, he managed to activate the sleeping stars of FaZe. Håvard "rain" Nygaard was incredible in Texas, Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer continued his upward strides, and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács was able to contribute with his AWPing. It is only Nikola "NiKo" Kovač whose form fell off a bit, but it goes to show how big the expectations from the Bosnian are since a "just 1.17" tournament rating is a talking point.

FaZe started turning it around upon NEO's arrival

Firepower is where FaZe have found their success, as they lead in term of multikills per round on LAN among the top teams (0.89) over the last month, and also have a high percentage of rounds with the opening kill, 53.3%. The ESL Pro League S9 Finals will be a great opportunity for FaZe to show if they can continue their form after the honeymoon period ends, with taking down a top10 team also on their wishlist as well—they only beat one full roster in G2 as Windigo and NiP were both fielding stand-ins in Dallas.

Considering the issues the organization is having and their reluctance to go for big money buyouts, it seems like NEO will be sticking around for some time. With how things have gone so far, it might not be such a bad thing for the stars of CS:GO to be led by the superstar of 1.6.

mouz challenging the big dogs

Steady progression has been the name of the game for mousesports, who, similarly to Vitality last year, have had to work their way into the top tier. Finn "karrigan" Andersen's team has yet to stumble or make a big misstep, but they have not been properly tested either. The European mixture was dominant in the ESL Pro League group stage and in the Minor qualifiers, won DreamHack Tours, and looked great early on at IEM Sydney.

But when meeting top 10 teams, such as NiP in the ECS online cup or MIBR in the playoffs of IEM Sydney, mousesports have not been able to step up to the task, and so far, their biggest win was the one over North at the ESL Pro League groups. In total (online & LAN), the squad has played just 41 maps, winning 29 of them, and, interestingly enough, currently boast a 10-0 record on Train, their best map alongside Inferno and Mirage.

mousesports need to prove themselves against the best

With teams such as FURIA and Vitality climbing up to the top5 of the rankings, this mousesports lineup, three months after being assembled, only sitting at 14th is a bit of a disappointment. That does not mean that the squad has underperformed or is struggling; what they have displayed so far has been very good. All five players have been stepping up to the task, with Özgür "woxic" Eker and Robin "ropz" Kool being at the forefront. However, mousesports are yet to prove themselves against the best or take a significant scalp.

The ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals are where mousesports will need to start showing the capabilities of this roster by making a deep run. Should they once again be stopped early, by the first big name they encounter, the pressure will start mounting for karrigan and co. ahead of the two biggest tournaments of the year: ESL One Cologne and the StarLadder Major.

Last chance saloon for Cloud9

New lows have been reached by Cloud9 ahead of the ESL Pro League Finals, which is not an understatement considering that the current lineup hasn't been impressing anyone. Since adding Daniel "vice" Kim and René "cajunb" Borg, the team has an 18W-27L map record overall, which includes the losses to the likes of INTZ and Luminosity in the ECS weekly cups that stopped them from qualifying for the LAN finals. Cloud9 have only played three LAN tournaments with this lineup and looked out of place against top teams, with their single victory from 12 games coming at the expense of Giants at BLAST Pro Series Madrid.

However, a lot could be tolerated in the rebuilding phase of the team, with the victory over Ghost at the end of May, which secured their spot at the ESL Pro League Finals, seemingly forecasting better days. But more heartbreak would follow for the fans as, last week, the team suffered defeats to New Identity and The Quest in the Americas Minor Closed Qualifier.

Is this the end of the road for this lineup?

Going out to massive underdogs, neither of whom advanced to the Minor themselves, must have sounded the alarm in the Cloud9 headquarters. The ESL Pro League Finals are surely the last chance for this lineup to prove it can be competitive before roster changes come into place to try to salvage whatever is possible.

Individually, Timothy "autimatic" Ta is the shining star, still being able to put in impressive performances, with cajunb the only other player on the team averaging a rating above 1.00. William "RUSH" Wierzba's decline continues as he has looked like the shadow of the player he was in prime OpTic and Cloud9 days, while the addition of vice has not helped to solve the team's chronic lack of firepower either. As the in-game leader, Maikil "Golden" Selim shouldn't come under as much scrutiny in terms of individual performances, but he can be rightfully criticized for not being able to bring out more from the players, as that falls, at least to some degree, on his leadership, in and out of the game.

A miraculous turnaround is needed from Cloud9 for them to have a good showing in France and perhaps get a bit more time together. But to make things worse, they start the tournament by facing Astralis, who are looking to assert their dominance after recent struggles, and going down to the lower bracket early is exactly the opposite of what autimatic and co. need in Montpellier.

Breaking out of the mid-tier

fnatic, G2, and North are all in slightly different positions, but they are in the same group of mid-tier teams looking to climb up to the elite. fnatic were the closest to breaking through earlier this year when they finished second at both StarSeries i-League S7 and IEM Sydney, but the Swedes have lacked consistency, and going out early at DreamHack Masters Dallas hurt them significantly. G2 are also struggling for consistency, but their peaks, such as topping the ESL Pro League group and finishing 5-6th at Dallas, are much lower than those of fnatic.

KRIMZ and co. looked flat in Dallas

Unlike fnatic and G2, who have had their lineups for months, North swapped Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså to the IGL role and added Jakob "JUGi" Hansen a month-and-a-half ago, and have managed solid results since: 7-8th at DH Masters Dallas, 3-4th at ECS S7 Finals, and a successful Minor qualification. For the Danes, the next step will be polishing their game: their CT side and the individual form of their players have looked good, but their Terrorist side has not been solid enough for them to be a true top team.

With the mixed bag of teams in Montpellier, at least one of this trio will surely achieve a significant result and push themselves upwards while stopping the rest from making ground.

Outsiders and roster movers

The remainder of the field is wide open, with a number of teams coming to France with nothing to lose. NRG is the most dangerous of them all, with no imperative to have a good result as they are playing their last event with Damian "daps" Steele but still remain well drilled as a unit, with some fabulous individuals. Heroic is a team that is in the upper echelons of this group, bordering the mid-tier one but not proven enough to be put there yet. Benjamin "blameF" Bremer has a lot on his shoulders there, as he is in-game leading and doing most of the fragging, NiKo-style.

NeiL_M and the Aussies reunite in Montpellier

Grayhound will be representing Oceania looking to build on their solid IEM Sydney showing, but they are not expected to go deep either, with TYLOO having even lower expectations considering that they will be making their debut with WingHei "Freeman" Cheung. HellRaisers are practically forgotten in the top tier, having only attended the Pro League groups and the WePlay S1 Finals since the Major, and are also outsiders at the tournament.

Two Brazilian sides that will not be going to the Minor, Luminosity and DETONA, will also be aiming to upset someone, with the latter hoping that the two weeks spent bootcamping in Europe ahead of the ESL Pro League Finals were enough to elevate their level of play. With so many squads playing without any pressure, some of them are bound to pull off an impressive result that will put them on the radar internationally.

Hong Kong WingHei 'Freeman' Cheung
WingHei 'Freeman' Cheung
Age:
20
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
555
KPR:
0.79
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.13
Canada Russel 'Twistzz' Van Dulken
Russel 'Twistzz' Van Dulken
Age:
19
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.14
Maps played:
881
KPR:
0.76
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.12
Bosnia and Herzegovina Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač
Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
1087
KPR:
0.81
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
United States Timothy 'autimatic' Ta
Timothy 'autimatic' Ta
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
951
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
United States Jonathan 'EliGE' Jablonowski
Jonathan 'EliGE' Jablonowski
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.08
Maps played:
1134
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.16
Denmark René 'cajunb' Borg
René 'cajunb' Borg
Age:
29
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.07
Maps played:
1394
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.63
APR:
0.13
Poland Filip 'NEO' Kubski
Filip 'NEO' Kubski
Age:
32
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.97
Maps played:
1675
KPR:
0.66
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.17
Estonia Robin 'ropz' Kool
Robin 'ropz' Kool
Age:
19
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
579
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.11
Denmark Nicolai 'device' Reedtz
Nicolai 'device' Reedtz
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
1343
KPR:
0.78
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.13
United States Daniel 'vice' Kim
Daniel 'vice' Kim
Age:
23
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.00
Maps played:
493
KPR:
0.68
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.14
Denmark Finn 'karrigan' Andersen
Finn 'karrigan' Andersen
Age:
29
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.94
Maps played:
1467
KPR:
0.64
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.13
Denmark Benjamin 'blameF' Bremer
Benjamin 'blameF' Bremer
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.18
Maps played:
285
KPR:
0.79
DPR:
0.63
APR:
0.16
Slovakia Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Age:
28
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.13
Maps played:
1419
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.11
Denmark Valdemar 'valde' Bjørn Vangså
Valdemar 'valde' Bjørn Vangså
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.10
Maps played:
817
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.14
Canada Keith 'NAF' Markovic
Keith 'NAF' Markovic
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
1096
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.16
Denmark Emil 'Magisk' Reif
Emil 'Magisk' Reif
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.11
Maps played:
921
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.63
APR:
0.15
Canada Damian 'daps' Steele
Damian 'daps' Steele
Age:
26
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.87
Maps played:
870
KPR:
0.58
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.15
Denmark Jakob 'JUGi' Hansen
Jakob 'JUGi' Hansen
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.11
Maps played:
825
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.61
APR:
0.11
Sweden Maikil 'Golden' Selim
Maikil 'Golden' Selim
Age:
25
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.94
Maps played:
489
KPR:
0.64
DPR:
0.70
APR:
0.14
Denmark Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander
Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.01
Maps played:
1186
KPR:
0.68
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.17
Sweden Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
1283
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.13
Norway Håvard 'rain' Nygaard
Håvard 'rain' Nygaard
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1119
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.15
United States William 'RUSH' Wierzba
William 'RUSH' Wierzba
Age:
25
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.02
Maps played:
974
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.15
Turkey Özgür 'woxic' Eker
Özgür 'woxic' Eker
Age:
20
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.16
Maps played:
668
KPR:
0.77
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.11
EZ4RAIN
2019-06-17 23:43
#4
 | 
Sweden Unluko 
Lets go Liquid
2019-06-17 23:43
#24
 | 
United States Libtard 
+1
2019-06-18 00:33
#40
 | 
United States @FyreCS 
Let’s go MVP!
2019-06-18 02:18
one of the greatest players o all time
2019-06-18 02:44
#2
BDSM | 
Czech Republic Skeng_ 
nice
2019-06-17 23:42
RIP Navi.
2019-06-17 23:44
Let's go MIBR!
2019-06-17 23:44
Who?
2019-06-18 00:38
mibr made in brazil aka made in br
2019-06-18 00:53
The clan with two faced leader?
2019-06-18 00:59
Yesmen
2019-06-18 03:43
cajun-who?
2019-06-18 01:05
EZ FOR FAZE! MVP RAIN
2019-06-17 23:45
#8
flusha | 
United States k3ar 
FaZe placed 3-4th at Dallas btw
2019-06-17 23:46
They only faced g2 with a full roster tho, windigo and nip were with stand-ins
2019-06-18 03:43
#45
flusha | 
United States k3ar 
They had it wrong in the article, just pointed it out.
2019-06-18 03:48
Too long
2019-06-17 23:46
#10
 | 
Finland CucumberFIN 
EZ4MOUZ ROPZ MVP
2019-06-17 23:47
No ENCE = Too EZ for Liquid or Astralis
2019-06-17 23:48
#13
 | 
Qatar PrisMcsgo 
Cloud9 sucks
2019-06-17 23:48
#22
mixwell | 
United States Frotha 
+1
2019-06-18 00:21
#25
 | 
United States Libtard 
+1
2019-06-18 00:34
#39
 | 
United States Cheezyshooter 
+1 It hurts
2019-06-18 02:11
key storyline : will Liquid choke in big final again ?
2019-06-17 23:49
i hope so
2019-06-23 14:28
#15
flusha | 
Sweden XenoRex 
Fnatic will choke finals.
2019-06-17 23:50
#16
 | 
Europe loonek4 
out of all the teams they picked cloud9 lmao
2019-06-17 23:53
#19
 | 
United States DervGuy 
Let's go Liquid! Time to finally break the Astralis curse.
2019-06-18 00:03
ez for DETONA
2019-06-18 00:05
lets go G2
2019-06-18 00:19
#23
mixwell | 
United States Frotha 
Please C9 lose so we can get some roster changes
2019-06-18 00:22
#27
 | 
United States Libtard 
-golden -cajunb -vice +steel +koosta +freak
2019-06-18 00:36
#30
mixwell | 
United States Frotha 
Steel banned from majors and TenZ will be probably added as well anyway
2019-06-18 00:47
#26
 | 
Poland KasPro 
EZ4FAZE
2019-06-18 00:35
"Considering the issues the organization is having..." - could anyone please tell me what is this about? I've seen something in my browser's news, but never read what is this about. Something has to do with manager BanKs if I am not wrong? Is that the one BanKs from UK? Though, good luck to FaZe, they have a lot to do so at these Finals. "Cloud9..." Feel sorry for cajunb, autimatic and RUSH. They deserve more than this. "fnatic, G2, and North are all in slightly different positions..." - Pretty sure North are much better than fnatic and G2. Plus they are still finding the way to play and I think valde is close to do that. Not a word about Brazilians, lul. I am obviously joking, but MIBR are going nowhere.
2019-06-18 00:37
RUSH Is a bot he doesnt deserve more Auti, cajun and golden deserve more
2019-06-18 01:05
#32
 | 
Estonia ropz_bestest 
very easy for mouz
2019-06-18 00:56
#36
 | 
Australia opzy 
EZ4HOUNDS
2019-06-18 01:07
Ez FaZe
2019-06-18 01:09
EZ faze
2019-06-18 01:53
#41
 | 
United States ratebuster 
Astralis given an easy group stage, smh
2019-06-18 02:20
#46
FalleN | 
Asia fos1x 
no Ence no Navi?
2019-06-18 04:36
NotEZ4Anyone
2019-06-18 04:39
Tfff
2019-06-18 05:55
#49
 | 
African Union mikecool 
Should be interesting
2019-06-18 06:45
Currently no one has an era but if Liquid win this, their era will start.
2019-06-18 09:01
#51
 | 
Myanmar nitrofan 
Let’s Go Liquid , Let’s Go Liquid ,
2019-06-18 09:41
nice
2019-06-18 15:56
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