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Fabio | 18. March 2021

EPL Group C: NaVi or Gambit?

ESL Pro League Group C is just about to commence! The playing field includes Gambit, Natus Vincere, FURIA, Team One, MIBR, and Cloud9. While there are definitely some favorites, the fight for the number one spot remains open and exciting.

THE CASE FOR GAMBIT

There’s strong reason to believe in Gambit’s ability to make first place, considering that they were the winners of IEM Katowice just a few weeks back. Obviously, this was a massive achievement. The players had to set themselves on top of quite a few top teams like Natus Vincere and G2 Esports. Abay “Hobbit” Khassenov and his men put up a great show, but will this momentum really carry into the next tournament?

After all, NaVi and the other teams in the group have had plenty of time to study the IEM Katowice demos. As the favorites of this group, Gambit will receive disproportionate attention and might not be able to handle that well. Just because they have won one significant tournament, doesn’t mean they will be able to dominate the international scene for a longer period of time.

THE CASE FOR NATUS VINCERE

NaVi, however, have been a top tier roster for quite a long time. Even though they had to fight through some performance issues last year, they have repeatedly shown up against the best teams in the world. They have most certainly not forgotten about their defeat to Gambit during IEM Katowice. Kiril “Boombl4” Mikhailov will have studied the demo material from this match to identify the team’s mistakes and issues.

With the exception of FURIA, who are world famous for their upset abilities, no other team should be able to keep up with Natus Vincere and Gambit. So the fight for first place will most likely take place between Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov. Even though it isn’t immediately obvious as to who will will this encounter, it is all but guaranteed that these two teams will take over the standings of Group C. This means that there will only be one spot left for Cloud9, FURIA, MIBR, and Team One to fight over.

DO THE UNDERDOGS HAVE A SHOT?

So can the rest of the teams actually cause any damage? Cloud9 are entering the tournament after a recent role switch-up, which hasn’t really come to fruition so far. After Patrick “es3tag” Hansen had taken over the AWP role for Cloud9, they have been unable to find sucess just as much as before. In the DreamHack Masters Spring Qualifier, they lost out to VOYVODA, a Bulgarian mix-team. They were invited to the playoffs of Snow Sweet Snow, but immediately exited after a 1-2 loss to Winstrike. Their match history offers no evidence for their supposed ability to take on any of the rosters here at ESL Pro League.

Andrei “arT” Piovezan and his Brazilian troops might have a shot, though. FURIA have constantly been delivering upset victories. They feature some of the best and brightest that the South American region has to offer. Lucas “honda” Honda is an impressive sixth man, who can be subbed into the active lineup at any given moment. Even though they likely won’t stand a chance against Natus Vincere or Gambit, Cloud9 and the rest should be easy opponents. Taking a look at the results of the past few months, the third place of Group C should rightfully be theirs for the taking.

But domestic match-ups should never be underestimated. These teams know each other deeply and tend to absolutely crush one another on every occasion. Even though FURIA obviously lead in an international comparison, their Brazilian colleagues on the MIBR and Team One rosters can always surprise and defeat them in a direct fight. However, this still shouldn’t be enough to compete with the favorites of the group.

So Gambit and NaVi have a clear upper hand. The fight for first place will be just as exciting as the fight for third place though. After all, only the Top 3 will actually make it to the playoffs of ESL Pro League Season 13.