ESL Pro League Season XIV Playoffs Preview & Storylines to Follow

34
ESL Pro League Season XIV Playoffs Preview & Storylines to Follow


After four weeks of incredible matches, surprises and disappointments, CSGO’s ESL Pro League Season XIV has reached its climax. As the last group of the competition wraps-up, it’s time to get ready for the playoffs stage, which starts this Tuesday.

In order to make sure you’re fully up to date on what’s happening, which teams will be advancing to the playoffs stage and the key storylines ongoing, we have prepared this guide. Let’s take a closer look!

Playoffs Information

The ESL Pro League Season XIV Playoffs will kick-off on Tuesday, 2:00 PM (GMT). You can check the starting time in your time zone through this handy link.

As for the stage format, the playoffs will be played on a single-elimination bracket. All matches are BO3 except the grand-final, which is a BO5 match.

Furthermore, as you probably know, the playoffs feature a total of 12 teams. The four teams that finished on top of their group will be skipping the Round of 12 and advanced directly to the quarter-finals. The teams that finished in second and third are going to play the round of 12. Check the bracket below:

Playoffs Bracket

Now that we’re aware of how the playoffs will be played, let’s take a look at seven storylines from the teams that advanced to this part of the tournament!

Storylines to follow

FNATIC – Off to an impressive start

PLAYER ROLE (according to Liquipedia) HLTV Rating in 2021 HLTV RATING IN EPL SEASON 14 GROUP STAGE
ALEX In-Game Leader 0.98 0.93
Brollan Rifler [entry fragger] 1.09 1.10
Jackinho AWPer 1.02 0.97
KRIMZ Rifler 1.00 0.98
mezii Rifler [lurker, support] 1.16 1.10

When we previewed FNATIC chances on the group stage, we expected them to do fairly well but recommended fans to keep their expectations down. After all, it’s the first tournament under a new captain, Alex “ALEX” McMeekin.

What happened, though, is that FNATIC impressed us right from the start. In their opening match against Natus Vincere, the squad managed to push the best team in the world to an unexpected extent. While FNATIC lost that series, they proceeded to defeat BIG and FaZe Clan in confident fashion in the following days. FNATIC would only lose again to a dangerous-looking Mousesports in the fourth day of their group.

Overall, FNATIC went above expectations, and they are one of the most interesting teams coming to the playoffs. William ‘mezii’ Merriman has brought the much-needed firepower this team needed, and while Jack ‘Jackinho’ Ström Mattsson didn’t start with the right foot in this tournament, he has quickly bounced back and will be invaluable for FNATIC going forward. This FNATIC is definitely exciting, and while remote, there’s a chance that ALEX will surprise us again and take FNATIC on a deep run in his first tournament under the brand.

FORZE – Dangerous underdogs coming to the playoffs

PLAYER ROLE (according to Liquipedia) HLTV Rating in 2021 HLTV RATING IN EPL SEASON 14 GROUP STAGE
almazer Rifler 1.03 0.92
FL1T Rifler 1.13 1.22
Jerry In-Game Leader 1.07 1.01
KENSI Rifler [entry fragger] 1.07 1.11
zorte AWPer 1.15 1.20

A last-minute addition to the fourteenth season of EPL, forZe has made to the playoffs of the event. Not only that, but they did it in a fairly convincing way, as they only lost one match in their group against OG.

In the playoffs, forZe will again bring the danger that teams from the CIS region are known for. As shown in the group stage, forZe has an incredible star in Evgeny ‘FL1T’ Lebedev, and Aleksandr ‘KENSI’ Gurkin has also stolen some of the spotlights due to his smart plays as a highly skilled entry fragger. Moreover, the team has great support coming from Almaz ‘almazer’ Asadullin. Overall, forZe has the complete package, and they are more than just the CIS underdogs that will get an upset every other day.

While we don’t expect to see forZe in the semi-finals, we wouldn’t be surprised to see them reaching the quarter-finals. In any case, forZe’s has accomplished a lot already in EPL, and surely enough, they got many more eyes on them from now on.

HEROIC – What you did last summer

PLAYER ROLE (according to Liquipedia) HLTV Rating in 2021 HLTV RATING IN EPL SEASON 14 GROUP STAGE
cadiaN In-Game Leader 1.12 1.09
refrezh Rifler [entry fragger] 1.04 1.23
sjuush Rifler [lurker, support] 1.09 1.11
stavn AWPer 1.10 1.27
TeSeS Rifler 1.13 1.20

Heroic is finding themselves in a complicated situation. The Danish squad is involved in a major scandal at the moment, and it’s hard to think that it won’t affect Heroic players, which actually played fairly well during their group week, before the scandal mentioned above took traction.

Heroic will have some extra time to prepare to the playoffs since they qualified in first place of their group. However, considering the level of accusations being made to the players of this team, they probably won’t be able to have a good mentality entering the server. Furthermore, this is a key week for this whole scandal as the community awaits for an answer from the Esports Integrity Commission about a possible investigation of Heroic players.

Overall, while Heroic played very well to this point, expecting the same level from cadiaN and his team at this point isn’t recommended. Independent of the result of a possible investigation, this ordeal will take its toll on the squad and we should see it affecting their performances.

LIQUID – Keeping the hopes alive in the playoffs

PLAYER ROLE (according to Liquipedia) HLTV Rating in 2021 HLTV RATING IN EPL SEASON 14 GROUP STAGE
EliGE Rifler 1.16 1.15
FalleN In-Game Leader, AWPer 1.01 1.03
Grim Rifler 1.00 1.09
NAF Rifler [lurker] 1.13 1.18
Stewie2K Rifler [entry fragger] 1.00 0.96

So far, not many fans of North American teams will want to remember this event. With Bad News Bears and Evil Geniuses finishing dead last in their respective groups, Team Liquid managing to advance to the playoffs – and doing so with more than decent performances – is the one last hope for them to see a good performance from a team from their region in a premier event such as EPL.

The positive thing is that so far, Liquid managed to do perform well. In contrast to their showing in Cologne, the Liquid we’re seeing in EPL is one that is relying more on teamplay, with Jake ‘Stewie2K’ Yip making crucial plays to allow Liquid’s stars to shine. EliGE, as always, has been delivering on the scoreboard, but so far NAF and Grim have joined him too, and even FalleN is playing somewhat better.

Looking better

Now, expectations for this roster are starting to build up and it’s very important that Liquid doesn’t fail to meet them. While they haven’t shown enough to consider them a competitor to the absolute best, they should be more than able to compete against the likes of FNATIC or Mousesports. In their encounter like Gambit, Liquid failed at the last minute, but overall, impressed. That’s exactly the kind of performance they need at this point.

Liquid has the chance to show their fans their best performance so far in the year here. They have shown to be in a much better state in EPL compared to Cologne, and it’s up to Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo, the team new team captain, to help the squad reach its ambitions.

NATUS VINCERE – The Favorites

PLAYER ROLE (according to Liquipedia) HLTV Rating in 2021 HLTV RATING IN EPL SEASON 14 GROUP STAGE
B1T Rifler 1.07 1.04
Boombl4 In-Game Leader 0.98 1.03
electronic Rifler 1.12 1.09
Perfecto Rifler [support, lurker] 1.04 1.13
s1mple AWPer 1.35 1.33

After Astralis and G2 – especially the latter – disappointed in their groups, some fans were curious to see how Natus Vincere, the best team in the world, would be playing after the off-season. Fortunately, s1mple and his team quickly put any doubts to rest. Besides a defeat to an impressive looking BIG, Natus Vincere performed as expected from them in the group stage.

However, while Na’Vi did well, they also shown that they aren’t an impossible team to defeat. Their BIG match certainly caught the attention of every other team in EPL, and there’s no doubts that the likes of Gambit will have some surprises saved for Natus Vincere captain, Kirill ‘Boombl4’ Mikhailov.

This means that the pressure of being at the top is on for Natus Vincere. Of course, we have to consider that we’re talking about one of the most complete rosters in the entire scene. They have three world-class fraggers, solid support and an ever-improving IGL. The stakes are high for Na’Vi but if there’s one team that we can call the ‘favorites’, it’s them.

OG – Aim High

PLAYER ROLE (according to Liquipedia) HLTV Rating in 2021 HLTV RATING IN EPL SEASON 14 GROUP STAGE
Aleksib In-Game Leader 1.02 1.03
flameZ Rifler [entry fragger] 1.11 1.15
mantuu AWPer 1.15 1.28
niko Rifler [support] 1.01 1.00
valde Rifler [lurker] 1.12 1.09

If OG managed to put their IEM Cologne performance in the past, so should we. Instead, we can focus on how OG has performed in EPL – and they have been fairly good. The squad finished on top of group B, and they only dropped two maps across their five series.

Now, OG has to keep their momentum going and impress in the playoffs too. This team’s potential is off the charts and if their AWPer Mateusz “mantuu” Wilczewski can bring his performances to this next stage, doing a deep run is a real possibility.

In any case, the first team to challenge OG will be the winning side of the Mousesports vs NiP series. Winning against either squad is doable, but will be a fair test to Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen team. Their next encounter, however, in which they will probably face Gambit, it’s when we will see a test of what OG can do – and we’re very excited to watch it.

Vitality – A lot to prove

PLAYER ROLE (according to Liquipedia) HLTV Rating in 2021 HLTV RATING IN EPL SEASON 14 GROUP STAGE
apEX In-Game Leader 0.97 1.04
Kyojin Rifler [lurker, support] 0.95 0.95
misutaaa Rifler [entry fragger] 1.03 1.13
shox Rifler [lurker] 1.01 0.97
ZywOo AWPer 1.28 1.36

Vitality is coming to the playoffs of EPL Season 14 but many are still unconvinced by this squad. In their group, the French squad lost two series: their opening match against forZe and their final game against OG. Still, even in their victories Vitality let some flaws and some encounters that could be comfortable victories ended having disputed maps.

Nonetheless, Vitality has qualified for the playoffs. It’s fair to say that this was the least of what their fans could expect of the team featuring Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut – one of the best players in CSGO right now – and they are expected to do well in the playoffs too.

Their first match will be against Complexity, and while the Europeans are playing without one of their stars, they have shown to still be a fairly competent team. This makes a fairly interesting challenge for Vitality. After all, winning against Complexity is a must, and from there on, only harder opponents would be showing up. However, underestimate or fail to perform against Complexity and they will be taking the match. So, can Vitality survive the traps that Complexity should be setting up and live to what’s expected from them, or will the Frenchmen let their flaws overwhelm them?

The playoffs start this Tuesday!

So, ESL Pro League Season XIV final week is here! While everyone will be taking a much-needed break on Monday, the action returns on Tuesday. Then, until Sunday we will be having plenty of action to keep up with.

Nonetheless, if you want to keep up with Counter-Strike and other esports news, make sure to follow us!

The author

My name is Marcos, I have been following the CSGO pro scene since 2015 but really got into in following games and pro teams in 2016. Used to bet a lot, stopped a bit but never stopped following the esports scene. I’m a student right now so I got a lot of time to keep with it and discover new things.

More articles from MJunior