EPL Season 14 kicks off with Group A featuring teams like Astralis, Heroic and Vitality alongside contenders in Spirit and Bad News Bears. Will the first event post-player break give us upsets or will the top teams take the win?

The tournament break is finally over and we pick up right where we left off with another massive event. 24 teams split across 4 groups will battle over the next month to lift the ESL Pro League Season 14 trophy. Kicking us off is a group of teams with some interesting storylines.

ESL Pro League Group A Teams:

  • Astralis
  • Heroic
  • Vitality
  • Spirit
  • ENCE
  • Bad News Bears

Astralis’ Lucky Debut

Astralis has once again returned to an extended roster and just like the last time this move is surrounded by well-founded rumors about future roster changes. With players like Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif, Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Højsleth, and Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen still available for transfers, the future of the roster is up in the air. But based on the signing of Philip ‘Lucky’ Ewald, Astralis expect at least one more member of the current lineup to move away from the team.

Nevertheless, the Lucky signing brings new life to the team. Gla1ve, who recently signed a three-year extension with Astralis, said in an interview that the team can not become the best in the world without a dedicated AWPer. Now with one of the most promising young talents in Denmark as their AWPer can Astralis become better? Considering they made the Semi-Finals of IEM Cologne 2021, it’s unlikely they place higher at this event. But compared to their mediocre online placements they should be looking to perform much better, reaching the playoffs of this event at a minimum.

Their worst enemy could be their own roster instability and their decision to implement an extended roster instead of benching a player. Both of which could affect Lucky’s confidence and the team’s focus.

Heroic without HUNDEN

EPL Season 14 Group A
Credits: Dreamhack and Stephanie Lindgren

Heroic have terminated Hunden’s contract after the former Head Coach, allegedly breached confidentiality before IEM Cologne 2021. This comes after they kept him on as an Analyst when he was issued a ban by ESIC over the Coaching Bug Exploitation. This is the first time since mid-2020 that the Casper “cadiaN” Møller led squad will not be supported and prepared by the Danish Tactician.

This will allow analysts and pundits to properly judge cadiaN’s prowess as a leader and Heroic’s ability to perform without their coach. If they are to perform at this event they will prove once and for all that they are a strong contender with or without Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen. Considering their poor performance at IEM Cologne they need a strong finish here to remain a top team.

Zywoo’s Vitality continues to struggle

Ever since the Frenchmen reached number one in the world at the end of 2020, they have been in a steady downwards trend. The replacement of Cédric “RpK” Guipouy with Jayson “Kyojin” Nguyen Van hasn’t improved the team’s situation despite occasional strong showings from Kyojin, the team as a whole has remained weak. Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbauthas kept up strong performances but the team has failed to support him. Their terrible showing at the first LAN back has made many skeptical of whether Zywoo is enough to carry this team without the veteran support structure they used to have.

In terms of positives, over 2020 we saw how strong Vitality’s support staff and Head Coach Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam are, so if anyone can turn this lost ship around, it would be him. This group stage is theirs to lose, as all the teams ranked below them aren’t particularly strong. Spirit has the biggest upset potential and Vitality will have to be careful against them to avoid going out in the group stage.

Spirit: the modern day Vega Squadron

Leonid “chopper” Vishnyakov and Nikolay “mir” Bityukov were part of the classic Vega Squadron team style, which was infamous for upsetting big teams at Majors. Spirit has become the spiritual successor to that team, with their unique style shocking teams at IEM Katowice. But since then they have been unable to replicate that success despite being a strong team with Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov regularly topping the leaderboard.

EPL Season 14 Group A SDY
Credit: ESL and Adela Sznajder

As always they will have a huge upset potential and with the player break having just gone by, teams will need time to get warmed up to official games. This will give them the chance to squeak past one of the top teams and reach the playoffs.

ENCE’s dissapointing international roster

Since ENCE’s run to the playoffs at EPL Season 13, the team has basically been irrelevant at the top tier. They were unable to qualify for Flashpoint 3 RMR and IEM Summer 2021 so they haven’t faced many top teams except at the Gamers Without Borders Charity Event. Even though they have been playing in tier 2 events and haven’t been dominating there either. So they should be a free win for all teams in the group with only Bad News Bears being a likely win for Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer’s troops.

Bad News Bears need a win.

Orgless, Non-Salaried, and the last NA squad holding strong against the pull of Valorant. Bad News Bears need some good news at ESL Pro League Season 14. Their last-place finish at IEM Cologne was a poor but expected result. But for a team reliant on Cash Cup Winnings to make ends meet, they will definitely want to perform much better here in Group A.

With Peter “ptr” Gurney retiring recently, BnB has agreed with FURIA to loan Paytyn “Junior” Johnson , who will be stepping in as the AWPer reuniting with his former IGL in Alan “Shakezullah” Hardema. Any wins they get could further their chances of landing an organization.

Match Schedule

EPL Season 14 Group A Schedule
ESL Pro League Season 14 Group A Schedule [Courtesy:@ESLCS]

Predictions:

  1. Astralis
  2. Heroic
  3. Spirit
  4. Vitality
  5. ENCE
  6. Bad News Bears

I think Vitality is going to get upset by Spirit but other than that the group should mostly play out as expected. Check out esports.gg‘s recent article about the event’s format and prize pool here.

Arnav Shukla - Writer of the Month: July

Arnav Shukla

Writer of the Month: July | Twitter: @xL_csgo

I am a hardcore Counter-Strike fan who loves to watch and write about CSGO. A student of the game's history and a bad player in game.