ESL Pro League is one of the biggest events of the year for both Counter-Strike fans and the teams that compete. It has a stake in the Intel Grand Slam that awards $1,000,000 to the team which wins four S-tier tournaments during 10 consecutive ESL organised events.
The first week of EPL has finished and now Group B begins. The refreshed rosters of G2, Outsiders and MIBR will be looking to take down IEM Cologne and Major Champions FaZe Clan. BIG and FTW make up the final two spots in Group B, providing us with national squads from the more underrepresented regions.
Much like Group A, Group B has a clear favourite: FaZe Clan. Finishing the season with another finals win against NaVi at IEM Cologne, the international roster led by Finn "karrigan" Andersen is looking like a hot prospect for winners of ESL Pro League Season 16. However, a shaky showing at BLAST Premier Fall caused FaZe Clan to give up losses to Heroic and OG Esports. Two teams who have recently acquired new players and wouldn’t have been favoured in these matchups. Fortunately, a good showing from Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken and Helvijs "broky" Saukants, who secured an impressive 1v5 clutch, pushed FaZe Clan through.
Two other teams that also attended BLAST Premier Fall are G2 and BIG. These two are in contention for the 2nd and 3rd place spots in Group B. G2 had a rough start losing both games in the group stage, but managed to pull back with wins over BIG and Vitality and qualify for the BLAST Fall Final. BIG’s loss to G2 meant that they weren’t able to qualify, only managing a single win at the event. Both teams had a variety of showings across last season, but struggled to find their footing causing changes. Nils "k1to" Gruhne replaced Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch on BIG; and following the departure of Audric "JACKZ" Jug and Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen for G2, Justin "jks" Savage and Rasmus "HooXi" Nielsen were brought in. These changes look promising for both teams, but some time may be needed to see the full effect of their arrival. Pinnacle values G2 at 1.181* in their opening match against MIBR.
Outsiders, MIBR and FTW make up the final three teams of the group. Outsiders have been a question mark since the loss of Timur "buster" Tulepov and Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis. At the start of the year, they were one of the most dominant teams in the scene, being a tough matchup for those in the top 10, but they are yet to find their old form. They face BIG in their opening match. Pinnacle values Outsiders at 2.110* against BIG which could be a good bet to take given the recent performance of BIG at BLAST Premier Fall. MIBR are also a team that have been making changes with the edition of well-known AWP player Henrique "HEN1" Teles. This move looks good for MIBR having already qualified for the Americas RMR, finishing the qualification stage in 2nd place behind PaiN Gaming.
FTW are the final team in this group and are unfortunate to face FaZe Clan in their match. Pinnacle values FTW at 11.440* in this match and for good reason having gone without a decent showing for some time. They qualified through the EPL Conference and fought their way through the lower bracket to qualify. Most expect FTW to be a guaranteed team that won’t qualify for playoffs.
*Odds are subject to change