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More CIS dominance or will a new challenger rise up? – IEM Summer 2021 Preview

Just a few days remain for IEM Summer 2021 to kick off, with a delightfully well-stacked collection of teams participating.

Without a doubt a tournament worth the watch, even if Gambit’s archnemesis, NAVI, is not part of the festivities. Time to take a look at who could reign supreme and add an IEM trophy to their collection.

Missing in action

Indeed, you might be wondering where NAVI actually is. A pretty good estimate is that they are taking a rest week due to them kicking things off with BLAST rather swiftly after this one. They should have received an invite due to their ESL Global ranking, however. Regardless of them not being there, you need not worry. Teams like Gambit, Heroic, and G2 are bound to deliver.

A solid question to ask though: will Astralis finally redeem themselves? Ever since device left, their ranking has been taking a consistent dive week after week. They still need to find their way with Bubzkji by the looks of things. This tournament will be another chance for them to put a stop to their steep dive in the rankings.

G2 played their way in thanks to the Closed Qualifiers, just like FunPlus Phoenix and OG. Expectations for neither of those last two teams are too wild, seeing as their Flashpoint 3 performance was relatively mediocre. G2 could have done much better though, and they need to get their act together straight away once the matches start.

The rest of the participants feature a wide selection of teams. Virtus.pro definitely has strong chances just like Vitality might, but they always inspire a feeling of just not quite being up to par, especially compared to a team like Gambit. The same counts for Complexity and Spirit. NIP might surprise, still attracting some spotlight with device now fighting under the Swedish flag. The rest of the teams feature the likes of Extra Salt, fnatic, EG, Sprout, and Imperial. None of those teams are expected to really break out of the groups, especially not Imperial with a #109 HLTV ranking.

No surprises expected in group A

A relatively clear cut group, Gambit getting an easy start as they are poised to take on Sprout, one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament. Further down Vitality and Complexity could become quite interesting: recent results show Complexity winning thrice against the French powerhouse. Will they pull that off again or is Vitality finally going to have learnt?

Astralis have shown some struggles against the FunPlus Phoenix roster in the past, and that was when they were in a similar dip as they are experiencing right now. If Astralis shows the same signs of fatigue as they have lately, there could an opportunity for FPX. The last opening round of Group A should be another quick pass as G2 outclasses Extra Salt by far; even if Extra Salt’s recent progression is admirable.

Altogether Group A should be guaranteed a few factors: Gambit will end in the Upper final and secure a spot in the semi-finals, with either Astralis or G2 taking them on, depending on whose form is strong. Vitality might just be the champions of the Lower Bracket as they were at DreamHack Masters Spring. The rest is all up for grabs.

Chaos in group B

The more chaotic of the groups, where Heroic gets the easiest start of the entire tournament. Do not blink because you might just miss the match. Number 3 in the world against number 109 is worth the watch if you are interested in seeing fer, one of the old Brazilian legends. The second opening round sees a first as Evil Geniuses take on Spirit, with Spirit normally having the strength to take them on.

Later on NIP against OG could go either way. NIP has not been doing the crazy stuff everybody expected since they acquired device, but maybe Thursday is their lucky day. The last round should be easy pickings for Virtus.pro, fnatic is not the team they once were, and they have recently shown anything but signs of improvement.

Group B has just one dominant team: Heroic. Unless things go catastrophically wrong, this will be a walk in the park. Virtus.pro could be a strong contender to take them on in the Upper final. The other team to follow in this group will be Spirit; they recently even managed to decimate NAVI in the EPIC League. Check them out for some crazy plays.

The eventual winner

Call me predictable, but I see no reason not to believe in Gambit for this one. The only team that could potentially upset them is Spirit, seeing as they are the only one out of two (The other is NAVI, and they are not here) that have beat them before. That is a challenge to say the least. It is bound to be a spectacular viewing experience, so be sure to tune in.

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Image Credit: Gambit Esports