LAN is back and the results clearly show this as 3 out of the top 4 of IEM Katowice 2020 have booked Playoffs slots at IEM Cologne 2021 as Astralis and NaVi yesterday joined Gambit and G2 in the list of Playoffs teams. (Image: @ESLCS)

In a rematch of IEM Beijing 2020 Grand Finals, NaVi faced off against Vitality for a playoffs spot at IEM Cologne 2021. The CIS Squad looked dominant in their match against Renegades despite dropping the first map. The Australians stood no chance against a NaVi led by s1mple and electronic.

For Vitality, their game against Furia was a close but comfortable 2-0 where everyone on Vitality put up good numbers to set up this clash between the best players in the world, where NaVi came in as strong favorites.

NaVi take down Vitality in a thrilling series

Map 1 - Overpass - B1t Goes Nuclear

When you see Mathieu 'ZywOo' Herbaut and Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev on a server you expect to see fireworks and this series delivered as Valeriy 'B1T' Vakhovskiy outperformed both players combined on Overpass, dropping 35 kills in a 16-14 loss.

The young gun seems to be learning a thing or two from s1mple about carrying his team even in a loss. For both Zyw0o and s1mple, this was a rather poor showing as they got 22 and 13 kills respectively. Richard 'shox' Papillon's game sense and constant CT side flanks led Vitality over the hump while also giving them valuable entry kills on the T side.

The game started with a 10-5 half favoring Vitality's T side despite B1t's best attempts, as the rest of NaVi wasn't able to help him out. In the second half, NaVi kicked off with 4 rounds in a row before Vitality responded with 3 of their own. From there the game proceeded back and forth till the scoreboard was tied up at 14-14 when Vitality managed to secure the next two in a row to secure the closely fought map win.

Map 2 - Nuke - Perfect0 leads NaVi to a Stomp

Sadly, for Vitality, the next map was far from close as NaVi battered Vitality in the opening half. Nuke is historically a CT-sided map so NaVi went and dropped a 13-2 scoreline from their T side. Ilya 'Perfecto' Zalutskiy secured 20 kills and after such levels of dominance, there was no way Vitality could have come back in the second half with NaVi quickly closing out the game 16-5.

Map 3 - Mirage - Clash of the Titans

The final map was one that fit the hype of the match as both Zyw0o and s1mple stepped up to the top of the scoreboard, but alas it wasn't enough for a Vitality win as Shox cooled off after carrying his team in the first two maps.

Just like in their grand finals bout at IEM Beijing though Zyw0o delivered spectacular plays, with an incredible AWP Ace with a 1v3 clutch where he read NaVi like a book. But with everyone on NaVi pulling their weight and an on-point s1mple the series quickly ended with a 2-1 win for NaVi booking their spot in the playoffs and setting them up for a match against Astralis for the semi-finals spot at IEM Cologne 2021.

Astralis Dominate Heroic in the Danish Derby

Astralis is by far the team that has improved the most on LAN, their team chemistry and tactics are matched only by Gambit and considering how the storyline coming into IEM Cologne 2021 was the collapse of Astralis, this is a shocking change of plans. Ever since device left Astralis the team looked lost and had trouble getting top placings at big events as they saw themselves eliminated in 9th-12th place from IEM Summer. Ever since the start of IEM Cologne 2021, however, we have seen a resurgent Astralis taking the event by storm as they secured their playoffs spot without dropping a single map to Faze or Heroic.

Map 1 - Inferno - Bubzkji Tops the Scoreboards

The tactical prowess of Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander was undoubtedly great but now the team seems to be functioning and fragging well enough to execute those strategies as their game against Heroic was much more dominant than what the scoreboard shows. On Astralis' pick of Inferno, they started strong winning 7 out of the first 9 rounds despite losing the pistol round. Lucas 'Bubzkji' Andersen had a particularly strong map as he got 22 kills and top fragged on the server. The first half ended with an 8-7 scoreline giving hope for Heroic to come back in the second half.

Astralis, however, shut down all chances of such a comeback as they went on another round win streak winning 7 out of the first 8 rounds and securing match point. From there it was a matter of time till they closed it out as the map ended on a 16-11 scoreline.

Map 2 - Overpass - Dupreeh puts on a Masterclass

The second map started with another 8-7 scoreline as Heroic picked up the pistol round and conversions before Astralis answered with 8 in a row for them. Heroic closed out the half by picking up the final 4 rounds by eliminations.

The second half was Astralis in control throughout as a dominant Peter 'dupreeh' Rasmussen destroyed Heroic's hopes of taking the series to 3 as he got 32 kills in a 16-11 victory. Heroic tried their best towards the end of the game but Astralis traded any rounds Heroic won and secured the 2-0 win and a berth at IEM Cologne 2021 Playoffs.

Astralis to take on NaVi for Semi-Finals Spot

In a rematch straight from the Semi-Finals of Katowice 2020, NaVi will face Astralis in a battle to secure Semis at IEM Cologne 2021. NaVi has continued their dominant form from the online era and look set to replicate their win at IEM Katowice where they dominated Astralis in one of the worst losses the Danes have ever faced.

Astralis themselves have looked to be in great form this event which makes this match one of the most exciting so far. Astralis have won every game 2-0 whereas NaVi seems to always lose a map and then turn the level up to 11. If B1t comes out with another s1mplesque map NaVi could be looking at an easy victory but the Danes won't roll over that easily as their protocols will try to shut down any star performances from the CIS squad.

NaVi will hope that s1mple takes over the server and carries them to a victory but this game is as close as can be and will be a must-watch for everyone. Watch the game live on ESL's Twitch Channel and check out our coverage of IEM Cologne 2021 here.

Feature Image Courtesy of ESL's Twitter.