We are back into the Cathedral of Counter-Strike, who’s going to lift the Chalice in the LANXESS Arena?
With just two top 10 teams in attendance, one might assume that the IEM Cologne Playoffs will be a bust. But with NaVi on form, FaZe returning, and a handful of underdog-run contenders, the playoffs are shaping up to be the perfect end to a unique season of Counter Strike.
Quarter-Finals: MOUZ vs Astralis
Starting the LANXESS proceedings will be MOUZ taking on Astralis. Two teams that have been underwhelming this season, but for different reasons.
For Astralis, their mid-season switch for farlig gave the team new life. But with k0nfig's inconsistent levels, have meant that despite BlameF's best attempts, the team hadn't lived up to their expectations. In this event, though, the k0nfig-BlameF duo finally performed. Both players are currently ranked in the top-8 in the event and have been the catalyst for Astralis' success.
Over on the MOUZ side, the fragging distribution is about what you'd expect. Frozen, Bymas and torzsi have all been solid but none of them fall into the top 10. Meanwhile dexter and JDC bring up the rear with sub-1.00 ratings. The main step-up on MOUZ is definitely dexter though. Despite his terrible statistics, his calling has improved massively and has been the difference-maker for his team.
For their matchup, however, I think MOUZ will fall short of success. Astralis not only has the firepower and tactical advantage, but also immense experience. Gla1ve and Xyp9x have been on the stage time and time again, and even blameF and k0nfig's experience outclasses that of MOUZ. With all these factors, I expect Astralis to take a close but clean victory over MOUZ.
Quarter-Finals: Movistar Riders vs Team Liquid
Movistar Riders, what a wonderful story it has been so far. When the team made it across the line in the Play-Ins, Sunpayus said that the feeling was better than winning ESL Challenger Valencia in front of the home crowd. Now they have made it all the way to the playoffs of IEM Cologne. A dream come true, but the story might end here.
The Spaniards have made it thus far on the back of Sunpayus dominating every AWP duel. Even against NaVi, the team kept up for the first two maps. And against Liquid, Sunpayus will surely be the better AWPer in the server, but will that even matter? On the American side, EliGE has been putting up numbers straight out of 2019. Currently the 4th best player in the event, he is showing no signs of stopping. Combine that with the firepower of NAF, oSee and YEKINDAR. And the combined calling of the aforementioned Latvian and the nitr0-daps duo, this team is ready to brawl.
The final nail in the Movistar coffin might be the lack of experience. The Spanish team has rarely even attended events of this stature, let alone made it to the playoffs of IEM Cologne. Meanwhile Liquid is the last LANXESS champion, with nitr0, EliGE, and NAF being some of the most experienced active players today. It seems unlikely that the Riders will be able to overcome this, but they sure will make it competitive. Expect 3 maps, insane clutches, TLChokes and a whole lot of overtime.
Who can take it all the way at IEM Cologne Playoffs?
While Astralis and Liquid are the favorites for the Quarter-finals, in the grand scheme of things, they don't stand a chance against the Giants that await them. NaVi on one side is coming in as the new best team in the world. While on the other side, the defending Major champions FaZe want to take back their throne.
Will electronic be able to outcall karrigan? Will the firepower of NaVi be taken down by FaZe's cohesion? Will sdy's NaVi live up to the heights of 2021? Or will an underdog disrupt the whole event?