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The five stories to follow through Season 8 of ESL Pro League

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We’re only in week one of EPL and the results are already all over the place. Check out five things to keep an eye on in the midst of all this relentless, online Counter-Strike madness.

5) Heavy hitters under zugzwang

MiBR, Team Liquid and FaZe Clan are all performing below expectations. The NA-BR mix, lead by their new coach YNk, appears caught in the infamous twilight zone where lower ranked teams are easily dispatched off, but the two top dogs, Astralis and Na’Vi are so far out of striking distance, that not even a lucky punch will do. FalleN & Co. are certainly hungry for titles. Especially MiBR’s Brazilian core knows the sweet taste of success from a now seemingly distant past. They will settle for nothing less, and the expiry date of the “we-are-still-a-new–team” excuse looms just around the corner, and once that corner is turned, their true potential will be exposed mercilessly.

Team Liquid are fighting different demons. nitr0 and his boys possess comparable qualities to the pre world-beating Astralis. Amongst them are firepower, team composition, young and talented players, but unfortunately also the hard-core choke made famous by the core players of the Danish powerhouse, as evidenced just this past weekend at ESL One New York. ELiGE & Co. still boast only one trophy from a tier-two tournament and several second place finishes. The time is ripe to bring home a big one. As for FaZe Clan, the EU super team is lost in complete disarray ever since their last trophy at ESL One Belo Horizonte. Gone are the lightness and joy they used to perform with, traits they ought to rediscover if success is to be found again.

4) Top underdogs

Another season and the Turkish Space Soldiers are off to another flying start. The talented Turks have demonstrated their potential repeatedly by now. The problem: their capabilities are restricted to online play, with no translation onto LAN environments. The Space Soldiers performances at offline events in 2018 have been disastrous. No one doubts the skill of players like XANTARES, paz or Calyx. But MAJ3R’s boys are overdue in shaking off their reputation as onliners. Why not now? The LAN Finals of Pro League Season 8 in Odense would be the perfect place!

Ghost Gaming have one of NA’s most dangerous snipers in koosta, and one of the region’s finest Counter-Strike minds, Joshua “steel” Nissan. This is his first ever appearance in Pro League, and he will do everything to make it worthwhile. steel is a veteran of the game and could function as a role model for the younger players around him, if they buy into his tough way of playing Counter-Strike.

3) The new MDLers

BIG are back in town after a season away from the big league. Even after over a decade into his career, gob b continues to impress with his incredible leading skills. The German team utilizes a well-structured, tactical approach that has earned them great results on LAN. After the addition of UK star AWPer smooya, BIG now bolster their style with enough firepower to be a threat to anyone. It will be fun to see how high they can reach. Windigo Gaming may find it rough in Pro League at first. Even though the Bulgarians possess a veteran core with bubble, pNshr and v1c7or, notorious for getting strong results in online play, EPL opposition will be a different beast to tame.

In good ol’ NA, eUnited and Team Envy are the newcomers, though both teams consist of mainly experienced, battle-tested players. jdm64 makes his return into EPL with Team Envy, alongside reltuC, SEMPHIS, Nifty and Drone. dapr is eUnited’s player to watch, he’s shown individual skill in the lower tier of CS and has an opportunity to showcase his talent against the world’s best on a regular basis now. Even though both these teams may surprise, a realistic assessment sees them in the lower half of the leaderboard.

2) How to stop the Danish freight train?

Astralis is untouchable right now. Sure, they’re not going to win every single online match, but once a big LAN kicks off, they perform on a level previously deemed impossible. The obvious picks to stop the Dane-Train, are the already mentioned Na’Vi, Liquid and MiBR. But these sides almost seem intimidated by Astralis’ magic, and intimidation is something predators like dev1ce or dupreeh feast on with ferocity.

The Ninjas in Pyjamas always put up a good fight when facing the world’s number one. BIG and the Space Soldiers have shown this week that playing smart and without fear can bring results. Anti-stratting usually backfires against gla1ve & Co. and if your plan is to outskill them, you are doomed. Teams will have to sit down and study Astralis’ game meticulously to find any exploitable flaws. It’s a process that always needs to happen when a certain side dominates. It happened to NiP, Fnatic and Luminosity/SK, and at some point it will happen to Astralis too. But that point could be far away seeing just how superior the Danish team currently is.

1) The battle of regions: NA vs. EU

The old continent took a lead right out of the gates when CS:GO was released and never looked back. Five years later, nothing has changed. To this day, the only non-European team to hold the reigns over the CS:GO realm, remains MiBR (previously SK/Luminosity), and they can’t be considered North American. Only two teams, Liquid and NRG, are amongst the world’s top ten sides, and if we’re being honest, only the former stands a chance to interrupt the EU dominance.

It is about time we get to enter a NA dominated era. There are no more excuses. NA is filled with talent and teams that offer perfect playing conditions. Liquid are on the right path, and they possess the hunger too, but where are the other American challengers? The region must rise together, push harder, aim higher TO relieve the Europeans of their control over CS:GO.

ESL Pro League Season 8 is already in full swing!

Tune into ESL CS:GO’s Facebook channel to watch your favorite teams battle for a spot at the offline finals in Odense. If you want to watch the season finals, you can purchase tickets here.

For all the latest updates on the ESL Pro League, be sure to follow ESL Counter-Strike on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Season 8 of the ESL Pro League is brought to you by Intel, the City of Odense, Nvidia, Legion by Lenovo, Logitech, paysafecard, xfinity, MDL and YouTube.