The ESL Pro League Season 15 playoffs kick off on Tuesday, April 5, and Michael Lee brings you full coverage of the opening two matches, featuring two exciting clashes in Fnatic vs ENCE and FaZe Clan vs Players.
Adding to the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive previews, Michael also checks out a Dota 2 DPC WEU match between Team Liquid and Entity, scheduled to start shortly after the Fnatic vs ENCE clash.
ESL Pro League Season 15 Playoffs
Fnatic barely secured their spot in the ESL Pro League playoffs, as they ended Group A in third place, with a 3-2 record ahead of MOUZ, G2 Esports, and LookingForOrg. I won't say that Fnatic did not deserve to qualify for the next stage, but there is no denying that had G2 not choked, Fnatic would already be out of this tournament.
During the group stage, Fnatic have won three series, but they weren't very good in either of them. They dropped a map against LookingForOrg (1-2), won against the struggling G2 Esports (2-1), and edged past MOUZ (2-1). Meanwhile, they got outclassed by Ninjas in Pyjamas (0-2) and Entropiq (0-2).
ENCE is another surprise appearance in the ESL Pro League playoffs, but unlike Fnatic, they unquestionably deserve to be here. ENCE began their ESL Pro League campaign in Group B, alongside FURIA, FaZe Clan, Team Vitality, Outsiders, and Sprout, and despite having to compete in a very stacked group, ENCE made it out alive.
Not only that, but ENCE ended the group stage with a 4-1 record, having suffered only one defeat against FURIA Esports (1-2). Even more impressive is that ENCE stomped Vitality (2-0), Outsiders (2-0) and even defeated FaZe (2-1).
If ENCE's performance throughout the group stage is any indication, they should have an effortless time making it past Fnatic. You could argue that ENCE overperformed, but they have been playing much cleaner CS than Fnatic and deserve to be the favourites to win this match.
ESL Pro League Season 15 Playoffs
FaZe Clan had a very rough start early into the tournament. They started their quest for the ESL Pro League title in Group B, which they kicked off with consecutive defeats against ENCE (1-2) and Outsiders (0-2), but after that short slump, FaZe found their stride and went on a roll.
After they found themselves 0-2 down and in serious danger of getting eliminated, FaZe turned on their jets and decimated Sprout (2-0), Team Vitality (2-0), and even defeated the eventual Group B winners, FURIA Esports (2-1). Their late resurgence proved that we have yet to see the best of FaZe, and with the roster this team has, that's a scary thing for all other squads left in the tournament.
Players (Gambit Esports) fought their way into the playoffs through a very chaotic Group C, in which they finished in second with a 4-1 record. Over the five outings, Players didn't struggle to make it past Party Astronauts (2-0), BIG (2-0), GODSENT (2-1) and Team Liquid (2-0), but they have suffered a shock defeat against Movistar Riders (1-2) in the second round.
Despite that defeat, Players have done well and showed that they're a threat for the title, but there is a good reason why they're underdogs for this match. As good as Players have looked in the group stage, they had to face much weaker opponents, so we have to put a bit more respect on FaZe's wins.
FaZe and Players are 1-1 in the H2H over the last six months, with Players winning their first meeting in December 2021 (2-1) and FaZe getting their revenge with a 2-0 sweep (16-11, 16-5) in February, during IEM Katowice.
Players are good enough to force a tight match, but they're not known to do well on LAN and have already lost against FaZe less than two months ago. Trust FaZe Clan to win!
DPC WEU Tour 2 Division I
Team Liquid entered the 2022 season with a new roster, but they didn't need long to find success. They won the first WEU DPC Tour regular season in January and made it all the way to the finals of DPC WEU Regional Finals, where they lost against Gladiators.
Despite their bitter-sweet ending to the first tour, Liquid have proven themselves as one of the top teams in the region. But, unfortunately, they lost that tag with their performances in the first few weeks of DPC WEU Tour 2 Division I.
Over the three fixtures, Team Liquid has managed only one win against Brame (2-0) but lost the remaining two against Team Secret (0-2) and OG (0-2). I usually don't care too much about the final results but rather put more emphasis on what the team shows in a match. But, unfortunately, that doesn't help improve how I feel about Liquid.
They haven't been playing well, but this is a very strong roster, so it's only a matter of time before they find some stability. They won their first series of the tour last week when they defeated Brame, which isn't the most impressive result, but it could help Liquid snap back into the form we saw from them in the first tour of the season.
Entity are not at the level of Liquid talent-wise, but they have been playing well. They're 1-2, which obviously isn't great, but they took a map away from Tundra Esports (1-2), defeated Brame (2-0) convincingly, and even forced the reigning champions, Gladiators, to three maps (2-1).
Entity are not the top EU team, but they're good and undeniably good enough to take down the shaky-looking Liquid. When betting on this match, you're really only deciding on whether you believe Liquid will improve or not. If they don't, Entity should win, but we must remember that Liquid need to win this match if they wish to qualify for the Major.
The sense of urgency might help Liquid step it up a notch and win, but I don't expect to see a clean game.
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