ESL Pro League Playoffs Preview

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ESL Pro League Playoffs Preview

With the ESL Pro League Group Stage over, we take a look at the upcoming playoffs. 

A whopping 16 seasons on, ESL Pro League is as synonymous with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive as the World Series is with baseball. With the vast majority of the $850,000 prize pool in tow, the playoffs of this edition of the tournament are undoubtedly scintillating. Held at the beautiful Salini Resort in scenic Malta, the playoffs will feature 12 of the strongest CSGO teams in the world — not to mention the innumerable amazing plays they always bring.

People watching ESL Pro League Group Stage_Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

The Situation So Far

The Group Stage contained everything from dead rubbers to nail-biting thrillers, and we bore witness to plenty of surprises and some big upsets. With twelve teams locked and loaded for the second round, the stakes are higher than ever, and the competition will be tight. For those of you who haven’t been following the Group Stage, here’s a short summary of what went down.

Group A 

The first group contained a fair few surprises, with the most prominent being that Natus Vincere, one of the tournament favorites, barely scraped through by the skin of their teeth. They struggled heavily against not just big teams but also the smallest of the lot. As a result, they will have a difficult road forward. 

One of the group's most inspiring and surprising end results was the qualification of Fnatic. The Swedes have been struggling for a very long time, but a few recent changes seem to have made something click. 

Vitality looked ironclad throughout their run, only dropping one map each to Na’ Vi and a resurgent Fnatic. They will be looking to shake off a year of poor performances with a win here.

The elimination of Ninjas in Pyjamas is another shocking result from this group. However, after a very rough start, the Ninjas will at least go home with some dignity after winning their last two matchups, which included one against Na’ Vi. 

Group B 

Group B was the most straightforward of all groups, with the number of wins, losses, and points in perfect ascending order from the bottom up. G2 topped the group with not just 5 wins out of 5, but a flawless run without dropping a single map — even besting FaZe Clan along the way.

FaZe beat everyone except G2, but did drop maps against MIBR and Outsiders, who haven’t been in the best form. They will be bummed out having their number 1 HLTV team status questioned, and will look to bounce back strong. 

Lastly, Outsiders will be looking to make a deep run at the tournament with their relatively young team. They haven’t won an S-Tier event since Flashpoint Season 2 at the end of 2020, and the last time they won an offline S-Tier event was all the way back in February 2017 with DreamHack Masters Las Vegas.

It was another in a string of disappointing results for BIG, and they will most likely make some much-needed changes to their team. The exits of neither MIBR nor FTW Esports came as much of a surprise.

Group C 

By far the most messed-up group as far as results are concerned. MOUZ have been strong as of late, but few expected them to win the group in the manner that they did, only losing to Astralis on the way.

Heroic began the tournament by losing to MOUZ, but bounced back strongly to win the rest of their games. That being said, there were certainly visible cracks in the team’s armor, with the Danish side dropping maps against HEET and Astralis. 

The qualification of Complexity is arguably the second-biggest surprise of the group, with the American side making it through with three strong performances against the three eliminated teams. Plenty of work to be done for the team to be strong enough to go toe to toe with the best teams in the world, but this is a good start.

The elimination of ENCE may have been expected due to their forever-fluctuating form, but it still came as a surprise to many. What was a far bigger surprise, however, was Astralis’ lackluster campaign. The four-time Major winners not only lost to the likes of HEET, COL, and Heroic, but always seemed to do so from a position where they had the advantage. For a team with such big names in it, Astralis has fallen on some tough times.

Group D

Before the tournament, people could have been forgiven for thinking that Group D was the most accessible group, but things went right down to the wire for the teams in it. Team Liquid had the most interesting experience of the teams, losing to Eternal Fire and FURIA on consecutive days to have their tournament lives in jeopardy. Thankfully for them, they beat C9 on the last day to stay alive. 

FURIA were surprisingly good in some matches, and surprisingly weak in others. That being said, that has pretty much been their description since their formation, and it’s about time some consistency became part of their team credo.

Cloud9 arguably had the strongest run, winning all but one of their matches without much opposition until they lost outright to Liquid. They must iron out any weaknesses before facing more difficult opponents.

Of the three teams that were eliminated, Eternal Fire and EG both showed sporadic bursts of Promise, but Movistar Riders will have a world of rebuilding to do after only showing any kind of fight in their very first match, where they took a map off of Liquid.

ESL Pro League Season 16 Playoff Fixtures

The playoffs will feature two Bo3 matches a day until the Grand Final, which will be a Bo5. Unlike conventional 16-team brackets, this one will have four matches each in Round 12 and the Quarterfinals, where the four group-topping teams will be waiting. The Semifinals and the Grand Final will be like any other competition.

Round of 12

Although CS is a game of uncertain results, Complexity will have a field day beating the likes of FaZe unless something goes horribly wrong for the reigning Major champions. The team of multinational megastars is incredibly strong in terms of both strategy and individual skill, and seems to feed off of both crowd support and saltiness. Helvijs “broky” Saukants, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, and Ádám “torzsi” Torzsás will be the players we expect to excel in this match.

Faze Clan playing ESL Pro League Group Stage Karrigan_Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Fnatic has shown tremendous resilience, but so have Liquid, so this one should offer some edge-of-your-seat action and might even become an encounter for the ages. Liquid has a lot more main stage experience than this young Fnatic, but in the end, nothing’s impossible. Expect Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis to shine for the US squad, while Nico “nicoodoz” Tamjidi and newcomer Dion “FASHR” Derksen fight back for the Swedes.

Heroic vs Na’Vi will most likely be the most eagerly-awaited clash of the round. The Danes have had tough luck against the Ukrainians at offline events, but the latter hasn’t looked as mortal as they do now in years. This will be an incredible clash, and we think Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Denis “electroNic” Sharipov will shine for Na’ Vi, while Rasmus “sjuush” Beck and René “TeSeS” Madsen step up for theirs.

Heroic playing ESL Pro League Group Stage Cadian_Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

The final match of the Round of 12 will feature two potential dark horses of the tournament. FURIA are looking like the better team thus far, but FURIA are also very much capable of beating FURIA (yes, you read that right) — perhaps more so than Outsiders. It’s highly likely that Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato will continue his crispy form alongside Andrei “arT” Piovezan, with Aleksei “Qikert” Golubev and Evgeniy “FL1T” Lebedev rising for the Russians.


If Complexity pulls off a miracle and meet Cloud9, one would probably fancy C9’s chances against the Americans. That being said, if a team can beat FaZe, they can beat any other. 

MOUZ’s recent form has been spectacular, and it’d be safe to say that they are in a position to beat either of the teams that may qualify to face them. Liquid are the more likely candidate, but the Americans will have to be more consistent if they are to beat MOUZ. 

Cloud9 playing ESL Pro League Group Stage nafany_Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Copyright: Adela Sznajder/ESL

No matter who meets who in this next matchup, it will have all the makings of a classic. G2 are in superb form, but so are Heroic and Na’ Vi are a team transformed once they are on the main stage. 

Vitality versus Furia will be an amazing clash of styles and skill. Both teams have excellent players, and will be eager to prove their doubters wrong. If Outsiders come through, it will be a game of patience, with last-minute executions being the order of the day. Plus, countless rounds will be lost because there’s no time to plant or defuse because of the amount of time these teams spend deliberating.

Semifinals and Grand Final

At this point, it’s difficult to predict which teams will make it to these stages, but if the group stages were a sign of things to come, we predict Cloud9, MOUZ, G2, and Vitality here, with Cloud9 and G2 going through to duke it out in the final. Don’t @ us, it’s just a prediction. 

Whatever the final results may be, one thing’s for sure; we’re in for 6 days of fantastic CSGO. 

ESL Pro League Playoffs Preview
The Old One
When he's not sighing at sub-standard teammates in Dota 2 and CS2, The Old One is writing about those two games (among other things). If you see his name around the site too many times for your liking, well, the guy just never stops writing. Yes, we've tried an intervention.