Counter-Strike fans certainly had their fill of surprises this past week with ESL Pro League Season XV’s Group B, but they are in for another ride later this week as Group C kicks off this Wednesday. If the previous group which had clear favorites ended in a completely unexpected way, one can only imagine how Group C, the most “open” group of the event will end.
So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at the six teams heading to ESL’s servers this week. This are EPL Season XV Group C.
ON THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT FIFTH – BIG
In nowadays Counter-Strike, a team simply can’t have players underperforming or inconsistent if they want to compete at the highest level of the game. Even outside of the top ten, teams are constantly changing their rosters in order to finally find that perfect mix of individual skill and tactical prowess. BIG is no exception to this rule, although they have never truly found that perfect balance. Even when they took the spot of best team in the world back in 2020.
However, the pursuit for the ideal roster still is going on, and BIG just did a second roster change for the 2022 season. This time, Nils “k1to” Gruhne has been demoted to BIG’s academy team, and Karim “Krimbo” Moussa has been promoted. The 19-year-old played his first games for BIG’s main squad during the third open qualifier for the Antwerp Major EU RMR, but his permanent place was only announced this past week.
Now, bringing Krimbo to the main team is definitely an interesting move. He was, after all, BIG Academy’s in-game leader, and having him on the main team open a couple of interesting options. Perhaps the team plans to use him to relieve Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz in his leading duties in order to further improve the team’s firepower. Another idea here – and a simpler one – is that BIG just want more consistency. Something that k1to seemingly couldn’t deliver.
AN IMPORTANT STOP
Nonetheless, ESL Pro League Season XV will be Krimbo’s first LAN with BIG. For Krimbo, it’s a shot to show that he’s the man BIG will want to bring to the upcoming RMR events. For BIG, it’s time to show that they can be a real contender. Earlier on, BIG gave fans some glimpses of greatness as Josef “faveN” Baumann had his first matches with the team. Afterwards, they absolutely failed at IEM Katowice 2022, struggled at the first qualifiers for Antwerp’s RMR events and didn’t do anything at Pinnacle Winter 2.
So, this is BIG’s opportunity to bounce back. Qualifying for the playoffs here – and hopefully going deep into the event – will help them build some much-needed momentum ahead of the RMR tournaments. After all, BIG will be playing at the most stacked RMR event, and a boost in confidence will help. Most importantly, this team needs to show – and know – that this roster works. Sure, EPL is a very important event on its own, but there’s more on the line here. Focus now while thinking about the future.
OPPORTUNITY IN DISGUISE – GODSENT
Earlier this month, GODSENT, the second-best Brazilian team right now failed to qualify for the upcoming RMR events. This means that the Brazilian squad led by veteran Epitácio “TACO” de Melo won’t be attending the next Global Offensive Major. This certainly has been heart breaking for the squad which finished 2021 in a high note after reaching IEM Winter’s playoffs. Furthermore, GODSENT is a team that was constantly improving over the course of the past year, so such a drawback definitely hurts.
Right after failing to qualify for the American RMR, GODSENT announced roster changes. Due to health and personal issues, GODSENT’s star João “felps” Vasconcellos will be leaving the team for the foreseeable future. The 25-year-old had a solid year in 2021, but failed to keep the same level this year. Without their star performing well, and still facing the lack of an AWPer, it’s not hard to understand what happened with the Brazilians.
In any case, GODSENT is bringing a very known name from Brazil to replace felps. After a disappointing year in 2021 and an underwhelming project in 2022, Henrique “HEN1” Teles is back to the big stage – even if just temporarily – with GODSENT. The 26-year-old AWPer was a big part in FURIA’s success before he left the team to play with his brother last year.
While felps’ situation is unfortunate, it gives GODSENT an incredible opportunity. For one, they will be adding some much-needed firepower to this roster, and in second place, this firepower come in as an AWPer. This GODSENT roster has been juggling the AWPer role since the project came to fruition, and having a proper AWPer will give us a display of how TACO will utilize the role. Of course, if it’s properly used, HEN1 could also help the rest of the team as it will relieve a lot of duties from the riflers.
One can keep speculating about what HEN1 will be doing for this team, but we’ll only know once the squad enters the server this Wednesday. GODSENT’s first series will see them facing Movistar Riders, and this is the perfect test for this roster. Under ideal conditions, the Brazilians would be the favorites. However, Movistar has been improving plenty since the start of the year, and HEN1 is a stand-in after all, making this a good test for GS with an AWPer. Hit, or miss?
THE FIRST SPANISH TEAM TO PLAY IN PRO LEAGUE – MOVISTAR RIDERS
2021 was a year of many firsts for the Spanish Counter-Strike scene. Sure, the most important those is that we had for the first time a fully Spanish team attending a Major, but it was also the first time that such team qualified for a season of ESL Pro League. Yet, while the qualification process happened last year, only now that we’ll be seeing Movistar Riders at EPL Season XV.
Still, as much as Alejandro “ALEX” Masanet’s Movistars have been improving, it still early days. Most recently, the squad managed to qualify for the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown by winning the RPT Arena Spring 2022. However, this result came right after the Spaniards failed to qualify for the Antwerp RMR circuit in a very disappointing fashion. And sure, winning the aforementioned event helps, but missing a Major will always hurt.
However, doing well at such a big event would definitely help them rebuild the momentum lost. In Group C – a group without three clear favorites – Movistar could definitely be the surprises just like FNATIC and ENCE did in the previous two groups. The potential is here, it’s just a matter of making the most out of every flaw their opponents show, and avoid showing their own.
Now, as for the Riders’ chances, realistically, they aren’t favorites, but if there’s one thing we learned in these past two weeks, is that no team is out of contention until the round-robin says so. Hopefully, the squad learned from their disappointing run at IEM Katowice 2022 and has done enough chances to at least put a good fight. Nunca darse por vencido.
THE PARTY CAN’T STOP – PARTY ASTRONAUTS
In late January, Party Astronauts asked for the community for help. The squad – which doesn’t have an organization backing them – needed financial help to bootcamp in Europe for ESL Pro League Season XV and the RMR circuit. Since them, it has been a wild ride for the squad, but at the end the day – and after a lot of uncertainty – they’ve made to Germany and will be playing at EPL 15.
Now, Party Astronauts is coming to this event after going through a rough road, but this didn’t stop them from grinding as much as they could during these past weeks. The squad has been doing fairly well at the North American ESL Challenger League Season 40, qualified for the American RMR with victories over ATK and Evil Geniuses, and overall, just has been a solid team for North American standards.
However, these standards don’t mean anything at Pro League. Party Astronauts is on paper one of the weakest underdogs here, perhaps just ahead of Looking for Org. So, it’s no surprise that much like the Australians, the Astronauts are coming here to get experience both individually and as a team before the RMRs start. Moreover, after everything that happened in February, Party Astronauts has an obligation with the community to make the most out of this opportunity. The calm after the storm.
PLAYERS, ABOVE EVERYTHING – PLAYERS [GAMBIT]
Much like Virtus.Pro’s players which kept their spot in ESL Pro League Season XV by using a neutral name due to the ongoing world events, Gambit’s will be doing the same. Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov’s team is coming to this event as “Players”. Despite coming to EPL without the Gambit brand, fans are still hoping to see the same fierceness that the roster showed before. The players are clearly fired up to play too, despite everything that’s happening.
Nevertheless, it’s complicated to know what to expect from Gambit’s players at this moment. There’s definitely some extra weight in those players’ minds, but they are also clearly fired up to compete against the best in the world. We simply can’t forget that weeks ago, this team was aiming to retake the top spot in the world rankings. Gambit was the definitive second-best team in the world back then. They were quickly improving their form in LAN events as shown by the early stages of IEM Katowice 2022.
ESL Pro League Season XV will give Gambit a window to show in which state they are in right now. Again, fans shouldn’t take negative results from teams from the CIS region too seriously right now, but that doesn’t mean that rosters from that region will necessarily perform badly. As Entropiq has shown in Group A, these teams can still perform well, and if there’s one team with potential here, it’s Players.
Even if Players aren’t on their peak, considering the kind of competition they’ll face in Group C, they shouldn’t have issues qualifying. Sure, the previous two groups have shown that what’s on paper doesn’t always concretize in the server, but Gambit should be a league above the likes of GODSENT, Movistar Riders and Party Astronauts. Anything else would disappoint even the players.
But then again, with a roster like this one, Players shouldn’t be having any issues here. Not only this group gives them an easy way to the playoffs, but it’ll also gives them a chance to play on LAN. Such experience is always welcome no matter how experienced you might be, and in Players’ case, they still are improving when it comes to offline tournaments after all. Don’t let the fire die.
THE BARE MINIMUM – TEAM LIQUID
While Team Liquid managed to quickly guarantee their spot at the Americas RMR, this roster has much to prove. Richard “shox” Papillon place in this team still is questionable, and Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella has yet to fully adjust since his return from VALORANT. The truth is: Liquid has managed to qualify for the RMR circuit but that’s the bare minimum. They still haven’t won an official match against a team from outside the Americas, and if this doesn’t change now, the situation will only get direr.
However, unless this roster is worse than expected, this shouldn’t happen. Liquid will be facing BIG and Movistar Riders after all, and at least the latter shouldn’t be a threat for this roster. If they can do more than that and win over BIG, for example, it would definitely be a pleasant surprise. Yet, Liquid will take anything at this point, and as long as they qualify for the playoffs, it should be enough.
The point here is – until when this roster will be content with the bare minimum? This team is the one supposed to be North America’s best, and yet, they’re coming to a tournament where no one’s confident enough to say that they will be definitely winning against the likes of GODSENT and Movistar Riders.
ESL Pro League Season XV will give Liquid an opportunity to show exactly what they are able to do. The bare minimum here is qualifying for the playoffs by winning against the underdogs. The ideal result, though, would be Liquid defeating BIG and putting a fight against Gambit. If they can do that, them we’ll be finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for this roster. If not, the squad’s future will keep being uncertain.
Of course, we also can’t forget about the less positive results. There’s a world that Liquid keeps their loss streak against European teams in this group. In that case, fans of North American Counter-Strike will have even more reasons to worry about this roster. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but nothing is impossible in Pro League.
At the end of the day, we expect Liquid to qualify for the playoffs at least. Again, this group is fairly open, and there’s three teams that would be considered underdogs against nitr0’s team. It’s easy to remember Liquid’s underwhelming results so far, but we can’t forget the potential this team has. This is a roster with Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Keith “NAF” Markovic, two of the finest players in their region after all! Furthermore, Joshua “oSee” Ohm has also been quite good so far. Be unsatisfied.
PRO LEAGUE RETURNS SHORTLY
ESL Pro League returns live this Wednesday, 11:30 AM UTC. The opening game of Group C will see Players facing Party Astronauts. From then on, we’ll be in for another week full of surprises and great games in Counter-Strike.
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