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Will CIS also dominate offline? – IEM Cologne 2021 Group Stage preview

As was the case last year, Cologne will be without the abundance of fans in the venue, but that doesn’t mean the matches are any less interesting.

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Luckily ESL made sure the players were in a LAN environment, creating routines and safety measures to let the players be on site, yet with as little risk as possible to spread a possible infection among others. Who will make it out of the group stage however, in once more a heavily stacked tournament with the worlds’ best attending?

Troubles for Heroic?

Within one of the stronger teams on the world however, an infection was found. Heroic, the number four of the world, has released that an unspecified member of the team has tested positive and that all the players are currently without symptoms and in good condition. They are allowed to continue playing the tournament, but are confined to their rooms. Due to the routines and safety standards set by ESL, the team has not mixed with other competitors, meaning the chance of a spread outside of the team is relatively small.

The risk is however, that with such an occurrence, the team will be in a different playing environment than their competitors and that could impact their performance. Still it would seem likely that Heroic would be able to make it out of groups, as their recent form is still on a high level. Being on the opposite side of the bracket as their most fearsome opposition, Natus Vincere, could make for a proper run to the upper final, which in turn secures a spot in the playoffs.

CIS aiming for playoffs once more

Both Group A and Group B have a strong CIS team to contend to get further into the tournament, with Gambit and Natus Vincere still being the number one and two of the world. Gambit seems to be the undefeated king at this moment in time, but with the star player of Natus Vincere, Aleksandr ‘S1mple’ Kostyliev, getting his groove on, maybe Gambit’s dominance can be stopped.

Don’t forget, Natus Vincere was able to take down Gambit in the Starladder CIS RMR tournament less than a week ago. A proper sidenote can be put down with Natus Vincere first losing the upper final against Gambit, which got to overtime in the ever deciding third map.

G2 and NIP to follow Gambit?

Group A is a minefield for predictions. With four out of the top six teams of the world being thrown in the mix, it is hard to make a proper judgement of who will most likely be following the footsteps of Gambit out of the group. Gambit going forward into the playoffs is of course an easy guestimate to make, but will Virtus Pro show signs of life again, or will there be a big let down.

G2 Esports and NIP seem to be the stronger factors within the group, with NIP being on quite a charge since picking up the Danish star player Nicolai ‘Device’ Reedtz. However it has to be said that Flashpoint in May was their best result recently, and that shows that they might be able to get out of groups, but might not be seen as a contender for the title.

The other beforementioned team, G2 Esports, is very consistently getting to a third place spot in most of their recent attendances, yet getting further than that seems to be difficult.

The tournament of the play-in teams?

Just as in previous tournaments, ESL has opted to have a small pre-tournament as a way for some slightly lower ranked teams to qualify. With how stacked this event is, it seems unlikely a lot of those will make it out of groups, yet as said before NIP might be one to do so.

Complexity is often also a team that can surprise during big events, yet lacks the consistency necessary to really bring something big home. But if we’re going to look at an underdog, Mousesports might be one to keep an eye on. On the back of their Flashpoint 3 win back in May, they have not really played any big events. This might mean that other teams might have troubles reading into the strategies that they may have come up with in recent times.

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Who do you think will make it out of groups, and who do you think will get the eventual win at IEM Cologne? Join the discussion on social media or our Discord!

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Image Credit: Gambit Esports