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Pick: Natus Vincere (moneyline)
We are all set for Group D action from ESL Pro League Season 15 of Counter Strike: GO.
Twenty-four teams are competing overall and at stake is 823,000 in prize money. With the best teams in the world in attendance, high-quality action is guaranteed. In the opening game of this group, heavily-favoured Natus Vincere goes up against AGO, who aren’t anywhere near even the top 100 of the HLTV rankings. Can they cause a stir, let alone an upset?
Natus Vincere hasn’t played for over a month. The Ukrainian organisation has had to grapple with the ripple effects of the political turmoil that has engulfed the region. That they’ve got Russian players on their roster has only added to the challenge. That said, they’ve been preparing for the tournament to the best they can amid these hurdles.
Natus Vincere still holds the first line in the HLTV ranking, even though they finished 3-4th in the previous tournament. Looking at the big picture, it appears the team will mostly fight for the top 1 with Heroic. The kind of map they will play won’t make much of a difference, for they will be expected to run roughshod over AGO irrespective.
Given that the Poles don’t play Overpass, Natus Vincere should take Nuke with their card. This is the best map in the Born to Win arsenal, on which AGO plays very poorly. Nuke is one of the weakest AGO maps and the strongest map for Natus Vincere.
AGO has slipped down the pecking order alarmingly over the past three months. They’re currently No. 137, and it doesn’t exude any confidence – not among punters, definitely not among fans.
At the Malta Vibes Knockout Series 6, they finished with 9 wins, 16 losses. At the Pinnacle Cup 3, they lost to Astralis Academy. At the Elisa Invitational Winter 2021, they finished 16-18th – all poor results no doubt. It’s hard to see AGO beating Natus Vincere on current form.
In the last three games, AGO picked three different maps and failed to win on any of them. Most likely, the Poles will try to play Inferno. It’s the only map where the team got something good lately. Meanwhile, Natus Vincere has won three out of their last four on Mirage. The gulf between the two sides is simply too big to overlook.
The punters offer 10 times the returns for those willing to put their money on AGO, assuming they win, of course. Are you going to be brave enough to hinge your bets on them despite all that you’ve read about their current form?
Pick: Heroic (moneyline)
This contest pits the World. No 27 v the current World No. 5. Heroic, with a stronger ranking and a more experienced crew, are the overwhelming favourites. Both teams have racked up decent winning streaks lately.
Over the past three months, Complexity has been on a four-match winning streak; Heroic have been on a three-match win streak. One of these streaks will end when these two sides clash against each other.
In January, Complexity announced their desire to overhaul their squad and have it brimming with the kind of confidence and intimidation teams haven’t had lately.
This led to them officially signing the Extra Salt quartet of Johnny “JT” Theodosiou, Justin “FaNg” Coakley, Ricky “floppy” Kemery, and coach Tiaan “T.c” Coertzen, plus former Team Liquid rifler Michael “Grim” Wince and FURIA AWPer Paytyn “junior” Johnson. They were also initially keen on acquiring Copenhagen Flames, but the deal fell through. Complexity had been without a CS: GO team since October 2021 after their old lineup didn’t make it into the PGL Stockholm Major.
Stars Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke and Benjamin “blameF” Bremer went on to join Astralis, Patrick “es3tag” Hansen joined Ninjas in Pyjamas, while Valentin “poizon” Vasilev and Marcelo “coldzera” David were released. Justin “jks” Savage is the only player from the old lineup that’s still under contract with Complexity. Can the repackaged line-up set a strong base once again?
Heroic, the Danish outfit, was initially considered to be a runaway favourite.
Founded by former players of Team X, they’ve got Swede Richard “Xizt” Landstrom as ghdif interim coach. Heroic’s key men are Casper “cadiaN” Moller, as well as Martin “stavn” Lund, both of whom are the longest-standing players on their roster.
They needed to sign a new coach because the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) handed out a two-year suspension last August to the former head coach of the Heroic CS: GO team, Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen. The verdict followed an investigation into claims of him sharing sensitive information about the team’s strategy with an opposing team ahead of IEM Cologne in July.
The ban disallows HUNDEN from taking part in any events organized by ESIC members, which includes major tournament organizers such as ESL, DreamHack, and BLAST.
Pick: Astralis (moneyline)
Evil Geniuses are diving into the deep sea when they take on field-leaders Astralis at the ESL Pro League Season 15.
The North American organization overhauled their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive roster with a new core made up of three members of the 2016 ELEAGUE Boston Major-winning Cloud9 roster.
The team looked formidable against tier-two and tier-three teams in the North American championships, but playing against some of the world’s best on the grandest stage of them all promises to be a sterner test.
For all their past records, Astralis haven’t been in the best of form lately. Does that translate into an easier passage for Evil Geniuses? Only time will tell. All said they have had issues of their own as well. Following poor returns in the PGL Stockholm Major, Evil Geniuses purged its CSGO roster.
Though they have their two top performers, they dropped Michał “MICHU” Müller, Owen “oBo” Schlatter, and in-game leader Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz. Three members of the Cloud9 winning roster have made an entry.
autimatic is returning to CSGO after an underwhelming run with T1 in Valorant. RUSH lands with EG after splitting from Complexity after two up-and-down years with the team. Stewie2K has enjoyed the greatest success of any member of the major-winning Cloud9. He comes in from Team Liquid.
Astralis too have rejigged their line-up with Asger “farlig” Jensen joining to replace the benched Philip “Lucky” Ewald. Farlig joins after establishing himself as a force with the Godsent roster that was transferred to FunPlus Phoenix.
The roster move comes after a middling start to the season, where they performed poorly at the IEM Katowice 2022. Despite Astralis entering ESL Pro League with a recently changed roster, they are still favourites to win.
|ESL Pro League Information
|Na Vi v Ago, Astralis v EG, Complexity v Heroic
|Wednesday, March 30 at 7.30 AM EST onwards
|How to watch
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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