Our final group of the ESL Pro League Season 16 approaches which means we almost have all of our teams for the playoffs. With a North American-dominated group left to play, it is still all to play for.
Group D features four teams associated with the North American region. Although Cloud9 now have a primarily Russian line-up, most will still associate the organisation with the team that won North America’s first and only Major. A few months ago, Cloud9 would have been in contention for the honour of being called one of the best teams in the world. However, a poor showing on LAN at IEM Cologne, where they suffered an unexpected loss to Team Liquid, has caused them to be doubted by many.
It must be noted, however, that Cloud9 are currently one of the oldest teams in Counter-Strike, in terms of time together, having had the same five players since October 2020. The major may be seen as the last chance for this team to prove what they can deliver before roster changes come; a result here is vital. Pinnacle values Cloud9 at 1.140* in their opening match against Evil Geniuses.
Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses are two of North America’s most decorated names in CS:GO. During the era of Astralis, these two teams were constantly challenging them and often faced them in finals. The online era, that occurred as a result of COVID-19, impacted the scene in North America like no one could have expected. Since then, Evil Geniuses have begun development on a 15-player roster and Team Liquid have picked up Mareks "YEKINDAR" Galinskis, who has had a massive impact since coming into the team.
The return of Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella from his stint in VALORANT has also played a part in this, helping them earn a playoff spot at IEM Cologne and immediate qualification to the BLAST Premier Fall Finals. Pinnacle values Team Liquid at 1.314* and Evil Geniuses at 3.240* in their round two matchup against one another.
Playing in Group D for Europe will be Eternal Fire and Movistar Riders. These teams come from some of Europe’s more underrepresented regions of Turkey and Spain respectively. Eternal Fire have been a team that has an extreme wealth of talent, including the likes of Ismailсan "XANTARES" Dortkardes and Ozgur "woxic" Eker. The Turkish side have struggled to find form against a lot of tier 1 teams, which makes them an unknown entity going into the Pro League competition. Luckily for them, Evil Geniuses are still struggling against both tier 1 and tier 2 teams.
The match against Movistar Riders is the best chance for Eternal Fire to get a win, as they have recently lost their star player Alvaro "SunPayus" Garcia. Movistar Riders finished the year with a good run at IEM Cologne but will need to prove themselves once again with this fresh line-up. When they play one another, Pinnacle has Eternal Fire valued at 1.925* and Movistar Riders at 1.819*.
The final team to talk about is FURIA. For the longest time, European teams have struggled to play against the hyper-aggressive style that FURIA play with. Whether it’s their In-Game Leader, Andrei "arT" Piovezan, running in first with an SMG or Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato putting up record-breaking numbers. Recently, though, they’ve struggled to utilise this style to produce wins. It’s safe to say they’ve found themselves in a group with teams they will be familiar playing against, but also against teams that offer a good opportunity for them to achieve some much-needed wins. In their opening matchup against Eternal Fire, Pinnacle values FURIA at 1.446*.
*Odds subject to change.