Bulletpoints: ESL Pro League S15 Group A
In a quick, bullet-point-style preview, we take a look at the six teams about to play in the first group of ESL Pro League.
Following a short break from top-tier Counter-Strike in the aftermath of IEM Katowice 2022, the world's best teams return to action at ESL Pro League Season 15. The LAN event will take place over five weeks, with the 24 competing teams split into four round-robin groups. To start things off, the likes of G2 and Ninjas in Pyjamas will be competing for spots in the playoffs.
Out of six teams in group A, only three will advance to the playoffs, with the best-placed teams advancing directly to the quarter-finals, while second and third-placed teams start the playoffs in the round of 12.
With the group set to kick off on Wednesday, we're taking a quick look at each team in play, the most important storylines, and their chances of making it through.
- Will start with AMANEK in place of Aleksib
- Looking to build on strong Katowice
G2 would've been an overwhelming favorites for the first place in the group had it not been for the news that Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen was to miss out on at least the initial game in Germany due to COVID, with François "AMANEK" Delaunay set to replace him.
Still, after an stellar showing in Katowice where they managed a second-place finish, with inspiring performances from Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, Nemanja "huNter-" Kovač, and Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov at different stages, G2 should be a lock-in to advance from the group full of teams struggling in one way or another.
Ninjas in Pyjamas (#8)
- device still out of contention
- Reports of Brollan offer could unsettle the squad
Both the Ninjas in Pyjamas organization and the players representing the team are surely sick of hearing the analysis about their team revolving around the absence of Nicolai "device" Reedtz and the revolving door of academy players, but those topics will once again dominate the headlines about the Swedish side.
To make things worse, the rumor that Ninjas in Pyjamas made a hefty offer for Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin could further unsettle the team, as one of Nicolas "Plopski" Gonzalez Zamora or Patrick "es3tag" Hansen would most likely be shown the exit door if an agreement with fnatic was found. For now, they will keep donning the Ninjas' jersey and have to do their best as the team tries to surpass expectations once again — something Ninjas in Pyjamas have been able to do time and time again despite never-ending roster issues.
- Winless since early Katowice exit
- Need to prove they can hang with the big boys
Entropiq might be the third-highest ranked team in the group, but their recent form has been more than worrying. The Russian team managed to put up respectable results after their breakout Major performance (second at V4, ESEA Premier, Funspark ULTI) but crashed out from IEM Katowice in concerning fashion.
Fairly one-sided losses to ENCE and MOUZ saw them unable to advance past the play-in, and that was followed by losses to BLUEJAYS and ENCE in Pinnace Winter Series 2 and the Elisa Invitational Winter. Not making playoffs here could be a sign that this five-man lineup simply isn't good enough to challenge for the top 10 — and maybe a roster change before the Major can't be written off, either?
- Debut with full lineup as Bymas returns
- Impressed with academy stars torzsi & JDC in Katowice
As shocking as it might sound, two months after MOUZ completed their new roster with the signing of Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt and promotions of Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás and Dennis "sycrone" Nielsen from the academy team, they are yet to play a single official match with their full roster.
That is finally going to change as Aurimas "Bymas" Pipiras returns, taking the spot that was filled astoundingly well by last-minute stand-in Jon "JDC" de Castro during IEM Katowice. The international team surprised many by placing 9-12th at the tournament in Poland, with their young AWPer looking particularly comfortable despite the step-up to the new level. But will torzsi be able to repeat the feat at Pro League?
- Team in disarray: smooya out, Brollan on bench
- Scraped through to RMR in final qualifier
Albeit shockingly fast, Owen "smooya" Butterfield's departure from fnatic was something the team could've recovered from in a reasonable timeframe. After all, being an international team with a capable academy squad gave the Black and Orange a big pool to draw from.
However, what seems like an unavoidable loss of Brollan, the team's star and a player that has a lot more to give at 19 years old, crippled the team's prospects. Credit must be given to fnatic who despite losing two key players still managed to qualify for the European RMR with Peppe "Peppzor" Borak and Valentin "poizon" Vasilev, but seeing them edge their way through at EPL would be a massive surprise.
Looking For Org (#94)
- Competing in Europe since January
- Failed to qualify for Asia RMR through Middle East
The biggest outsiders in the group are the representatives of Oceania, Looking For Org. It is worth pointing out that the organization-less team, as their name implies, managed to spend an extended period in Europe bootcamping for this event, but only about a month of that was with their full lineup.
Euan "sterling" Moore and co. have relished the opportunity to get out of the isolation of their region and play overseas opponents, but their success has been limited. Failing to qualify for the Asia RMR through the Middle East qualifier comes as a big hit and gives little hope that they can advance through the ESL Pro League group, as well.