Bulletpoints: ESL Pro League S15 Group B
We return with one of our short preview pieces to explore the second set of teams about to see action at ESL Pro League.
After going through an incredibly volatile and entertaining first week, ESL Pro League Season 15 finally returns after a short break with Group B. Six new teams will take the field, competing for the chance to be among the three advancing to the playoffs and running away with the bulk of an $823,000 prize pool.
Group B is looking to provide five action-packed days, with three of the top ten ranked teams in the world as well as three very exciting squads that are waiting for that one opportunity to leave their mark on the global stage.
With FaZe and Vitality headlining Group B, one might make the mistake of immediately writing off two of the top spots, but Counter-Strike always has that ability to surprise us. The four remaining teams are packed with raw ability and are more than capable of creating upsets, leaving one of the favorites out in the cold.
- rain returns to the starting lineup
- Will be looking to prove that Katowice was more than a one-off
FaZe come into Group B as the champions of IEM Katowice 2022 and in hot enough form to be considered the favorites lock that top spot, but as we saw in Group A last week, nothing can be taken for granted. Spearheading the squad will be Helvijs "broky" Saukants, who finished Katowice as the tournament's MVP, and will be coming into EPL to give more of the same alongside Robin "ropz" Kool and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken.
There are more good news: With Håvard "rain" Nygaard returning to the starting lineup, FaZe will finally come back to full strength, making their upcoming adventure even more exciting. Finn "karrigan" Andersen has all the pieces to continue their great run of form and establish FaZe as a consistent powerhouse.
- Virtus.pro players competing under a neutral name
- Difficulties on the operational side makes players' future in the org uncertain
Despite a good start to the year, and a respectable run at IEM Katowice, Virtus.pro come into their group with clouds hanging above their heads. ESL's ban on organizations with ties to the Russian government meant that Virtus.pro and Gambit players would have to compete under neutral names and as such, Dzhami "Jame" Ali and co. will tackle Group B of EPL Season 15 waving the flag of Outsiders.
Unfortunately, the problems do not end there for the CIS squad, as sanctions targeting the ownership of Virtus.pro might begin to affect their ability to maintain the roster, as well as restrictions on flights to and from Russia could result in issues for several members of the squad in the long term. Will this hang over their heads in Düsseldorf?
- Looking to bounce back after a disappointing Katowice
- French-Danish roster still far away from reaching their full potential
- ZywOo will always be the difference-maker
Following a blockbuster off-season in which they acquired three members of the all-conquering Astralis team, the expectations were high for the French-Danish squad. Despite a good showing at BLAST Premier Spring Groups 2022, their Katowice adventure showed that they still have a lot to figure out.
The boys from Vitality have a lot to prove at EPL, but fans should be hopeful. The more time this lineup stays together, the more issues inherent to communication will be improved. To make things better, Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen showed great form since coming into the squad, and if Dan "apEX" Madesclaire and Emil "Magisk" Reif can rediscover their confidence, Vitality could easily have a deep run at the event. Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut went missing at times in Katowice, so he'll be looking to prove it was nothing but a blip on the radar and not a byproduct of the new setup.
- Aiming to improve on their Katowice performance
- Individual firepower could see them over the line
An exciting squad with some real firepower, the Brazilians of FURIA come out of a really tough draw at Katowice, seeing them face Astralis, Natus Vincere, and G2 in rapid succession. Despite their early exit from the event, Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato proved once again his tremendous ability on the server.
There is a lot more to like from FURIA coming into EPL, especially with Yuri "yuurih" Santos and Rafael "saffee" Costa always ready to rumble. The new AWPer still has to truly come online for his new squad, but a few flashes in Poland showed that he has the quality necessary to take FURIA to the next level. Do not be surprised if FURIA is able to claim one of the top three spots over any of the favorites, they have the individual quality to do so.
- Spinx growing into a great player
- Serious upset potential
Coming from the same Katowice group as FURIA, ENCE did not have it easy at the Polish LAN. Starting in the Play-In stage, the European squad took a convincing win over Entropiq before dropping down to the lower bracket at the hands of OG. Their qualification to the next stage over GODSENT saw them rewarded with back-to-back games against Natus Vincere and Astralis, a very tough draw for almost anyone.
Despite the rough LAN debut of the lineup, fans and teams alike should not underestimate ENCE. Their aggressive playstyle and skilled individuals are more than capable of taking a few scalps from the group favorites. Not to mention, with Pavle "Maden" Bošković being slowly integrated into the system, Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer's squad will become more dangerous as time goes by.
- slaxz- on fire
- Left Katowice with no map wins to their name
Sprout had no time to dwell on their Katowice experience, needing to quickly bounce back and tackle the unforgiving world of the open qualifiers for the PGL Regional Major Ranking event. The third time's the charm as we like to say, with the Central European mix punching their ticket to Romania on the third set of European qualifiers.
Losses in the first round of playoffs at Elisa Invitational Winter 2022 and Thunderpick Bitcoin Series 2022 have since slowed down Sprout, and as things stand, it looks very unlikely that the will squad to advance to the next phase of the tournament. However, despite facing overwhelming odds, they can still give a respectable account of themselves with Fritz "slaxz-" Dietrich ready to give a good game to anyone.