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The penultimate week of ESL Pro League Season 7 kicks off and in both regions a fierce playoff battle is about to go down!

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We’re now in the thick of crunch time, and the teams with the most clutch running through their veins are going to separate themselves from the rest, clinch those playoff berths and book their trip to Counter-Strike’s hometown, Dallas.

The most prominent teams who are in desperate need of that clutching ability are SK Gaming and FaZe Clan. Both clear favorites at the start of the season, and both fear for their finals participation.

But in the race to avoid relegation, that clutch gene will be just as helpful for the likes of LDLC, Fnatic and AGO. EnVy and Dignitas on the other hand will have to rely on divine intervention if they are to move up and out of relegation territory.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening in both regions in the upcoming week.

Europe

The cut-off for making the playoffs last season was 41 points, which means the Space Soldiers, the Ninjas in Pyjamas and mousesports are on the verge of securing their ticket to Texas.

The Turks have 40 points after 18 matches and face Astralis and the Hellraisers in the upcoming week, two tough opponents, but the way XANTARES and his boys have been playing, we should expect them to get two maps minimum, securing their LAN spot in the progress.

NiP, 39 points in 18 matches, squares up against EnVy, LDLC and North. Especially against the two French sides, the Swedes will be favored and only a complete collapse could delay their advancement.

Mousesports (37 points), Astralis (35 points) and Na’Vi (35 points) follow on ranks three through five also in comfortable situations regarding the playoffs.

Where it gets spicy, are ranks six and seven, the last two spots for the LAN finals. A quintet of teams will fight over those ranks, G2 (30 points), North (27 points), FaZe (26 points), HellRaisers (26 points) and Heroic (25 points) – G2 and FaZe will clash with the HellRaisers for matches you certainly don’t want to miss in the upcoming week.

Check out the full standings for ESL Pro League Season 7 Europe below:

Match Of The Week – G2 Esports vs. HellRaisers

A vital series for both G2 and Hellraisers in their quest to make the playoffs.

After another miserable start into the season, losing ten out of their first 14 maps, NBK and his boys managed to turn things around. After winning six of their last eight maps, the French now sit on the sixth rank, which would secure playoffs for them. The addition of mixwell is paying dividends, as it seems to have revitalized the squad. The players seems hungry again, it shows on the server and on social media, where we can sense a certain positivity that’s been missing from the line-up.

The HellRaisers on the other hand, have slowly but surely developed into a serious contender. Their progression has gone a little unnoticed, but their victory at this weekend’s Bet’s.net Masters in a breathtaking final against North, proves their ascend into the higher-tiered ranks of CS:GO. woxic especially is catching the CS world’s attention with impeccable AWP play.

The maps for this series will be mirage and inferno. Historically, G2 have struggled on the former, though they have improved upon it in more recent times. Still, Hellraisers should be a tough nut to crack. woxic can dominate on an open map like mirage, where he can rotate between A, mid and B. The CIS mix also play a strong, tactical terrorist side, which G2 ought to match if they want to leave the map the victor.

On inferno the roles will be reversed. Players like NBK, kennyS and apEX are veterans on these playing grounds and have played and won the map on the biggest stages against the best teams, giving them an edge against the HellRaisers.

It’s all to play for in this series for both of these teams, be sure to tune in on Wednesday at 17:00 CET.

North America

Team Liquid have already secured their playoff ticket, sitting on first place with 48 points in 18 matches. First seed is also almost certainly going to be theirs, the only team that can still intervene here is NRG, who are second with 34 points in 14 matches. Liquid won’t be competing this week, whereas NRG faces the Renegades and compLexity. If they win all four maps, they can get within two points of Liquid, which would make the final week a lot more exciting in regards to first place.

Cloud9 turned their season around. Now in third with 29 points after winning five consecutive maps, they should be a safe bet for making the playoffs. This week will see them matched up against the Renegades, who sit in sixth with 24 points. This series could be decisive for both teams, especially the Aussie org need those points to distance themselves Rogue and SK (both 21 points), who are breathing down their necks.

Rogue is inactive this week, and the Brazilians meet Dignitas and compLexity – must wins if FalleN wants his boys on LAN. In fact, if SK want to make it to Dallas, they have to go 6-0 for the remainder of the season and hope for a slip up of either Luminosity or Renegades. SK seems to slowly improve after adding Stewie, but it may already be too late.

Since there is only one relegation spot in this NA’s EPL this year, that spot will almost certainly go to Team Dignitas who remain pointless.

Check out the full standings for NA’s Pro League Season 7 below:

Match Of The Week – OpTic Gaming vs. Luminosity Gaming

Just like past season, OpTic is doing well in EPL after assembling a team that superior in skill to most of NA’s sides. They are fourth with 26 points in 14 matches with a pretty tough schedule ahead of them. They still face OpTic, NRG, Dignitas and Liquid, which means they ought to pull ahead of Luminosity in this series.

Luminosity are only one point behind OpTic, but have already played two more matches. After this series versus OpTic, they face Ghost Gaming and NRG. The way I see it, Luminosity and SK will fight for the sixth spot at the end of the season. If we assume SK wins all of their remaining maps they’d have 39 points, which means Luminosity have to collect 15 points or 5 victories in their remaining 6 matches to stay ahead of their Brazilian rivals – not a simple task against OpTic and NRG.

The two teams clash on Tuesday and the series offers a chance for both sides to cement their playoff ranks. Especially OpTic will look to prematurely qualify for the playoffs. A turbulent match awaits that you shouldn’t miss!

Welcome to Week 6!

As always we will be returning with more EPL action from both regions on Tuesday.

Tune in here to watch your favorite teams battle for a spot in the offline finals in Dallas. 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 Twitter and Facebook.