Intel Extreme Masters Season XIV World Championship is set to take off this Monday, February 24, at Spodek Arena in Katowice, Poland. Featuring 16 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams from all corners of the world, IEM Katowice is dubbed as one of the biggest eSports events of the year, bound to draw in thousands of eSports fans who will tune in for to watch an action-packed week of top-tier CS:GO competition. A grand total of US$500,000 will be on the line, with the champions taking home US$250,000.
Representing the selection are some of the best CS:GO teams in the world from five regions, including Fnatic, Astralis, mousesports, 100 Thieves, Evil Genuises, Team Liquid, Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Virtus.pro, Team Vitality, FaZe Clan, G2 Esports, MAD Lions, Cloud9, Renegades and TYLOO.
The 16 teams will be divided into two GSL groups of eight, where a double-elimination, best-of-three (Bo3) format will be in place to determine six teams which will advance into the playoffs. Playoffs are set to begin on Friday, February 28, with the quarter-finals, featuring a single-elimination bracket, with all matches played as Bo3, except for the grand finals (Sunday, March 1), which will be played as Bo5.
Group A: Astralis, Cloud9, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team Vitality, Natus Vincere, FaZe Clan, Renegades, Fnatic.
Group B: mousesports, TYLOO, 100 Thieves, G2 Esports, Team Liquid, Virtus.pro, MAD Lions, Evil Genuises.
Out 16 CS:GO teams, half stand out as huge underdogs, who lack quality to compete with the likes of Astralis, Team Vitality, mousesports, Natus Vincere and other top teams.
TYLOO ($155.00) stand out like a sore thumb, as they should not be competing at IEM Katowice to begin with. TYLOO made it to the finals of Asian IEM Katowice qualifiers, where they got crushed by ViCi Gaming (3-0). However, because ViCi failed to secure visas for their players, TYLOO were called in as their replacement. What's more, TYLOO lost a lot of quality with the departure of their star player Hansel "BnTeT" Ferdinand to Gen.G and should struggle to win a single match, let alone making it into the playoffs.
Despite being much stronger compared to the Chinese outfit, Virtus.pro ($69.00), Cloud9 ($35.00), Renegades ($32.50), Ninjas in Pyjamas ($28.00), MAD Lions ($23.50), 100 Thieves ($21.50) and G2 Esports ($19.00) are not in a much better position when it comes to their chances of securing a top finish at Katowice. None of them have managed to achieve any notable results in recent months and although 100 Thieves and G2 are two teams who are capable of producing upset wins against stronger sides, they both lack the consistency to go the distance.
Fnatic ($17.00) are entering the tournament with high ambitions, but without the needed quality or form to make serious noise. Since they won the DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019 at the start of October, the Swedes failed to achieve any notable results, besides their grand finals appearance at ESL Pro League Season 10 - Finals back in December. That was also their most recent CS:GO tournament, meaning Fnatic have not played on a competitive stage in over two months and will be rusty as they travel to Poland.
Evil Genuises ($13.00) and Team Liquid ($9.70) are two teams who could, in theory, make a deep run, yet it's hard to be overly optimistic with the two North American juggernauts, given their poor display at BLAST tournament earlier this month. Their performance at BLAST suggests Evil Geniuses and Team Liquid are in a slump, which does not make them an appealing betting pick for IEM Katowice.
Unlike Team Liquid and Evil Genuises, Natus Vincere ($12.00) have been on the rise since they let go of Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács and replaced him with Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy. The CIS squad played well at BLAST Premier Spring, and if they can enter this tournament with the same fire, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's squad could upset even the strongest teams.
Team Vitality ($9.20) are entering the tournament as the fourth favourites, which might underestimate them a bit. While the French squad had their moments of weakness during BLAST tournament earlier this month, they are still a very solid team and should have a fairly easy time booking a spot in the playoffs. In all fairness, Vitality should be priced as shorter odds, or at least above FaZe Clan ($7.20), who unlike Vitality, over-performed at BLAST.
Bookmakers have mousesports ($7.60) as one of the favourites at Katowice, which is fair, as they are overall a strong team and should be capable of finishing among the top four. They rarely underperform and are rightfully ranked as the second-best CS:GO team in the world. Mouz are also travelling to Poland with a great form, winning nine out of their last 10 fixtures.
Despite all the talent present at the tournament, Astralis ($2.85) are without a doubt the team to beat. It's impossible to ignore the Danish powerhouse, and the talent they bring to the table and while they can have their moments of weakness, as seen at BLAST Premier: Spring, Astralis are nearly unbeatable when in form. Betting on the main favourites in these events isn’t always a smart choice, but at $2.85, Astralis are by far the best betting pick of the tournament.
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