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A look ahead to EU Pro League


Now that all of the Invitational Qualifiers are done and dusted (barring APAC) - we know 14 of the 16 teams going, the only two to be decided being APAC and the Direct Invite spot (which should be G2) - we move into Pro League, starting 6th January 2020.


That is only 10 days away at the time of writing (27th December). In this blog I explore each team, each teams roster moves and where I predict that they will finish in the league, baring in mind that they also cannot be relegated this year.



TEAM VITALITY

Vitality had a very strong Pro League X - even if they won't admit it themselves. They accumulated 25 points with some really outstanding results, highlights being;


  • Beating Giants 7-0 on Kafe

  • Beating G2 & NaVi in 1st half PL X

They came up from Seaon IX Challenger League, which automatically places them at the lower end of the league, however they clearly trained hard, worked on their strengths and played to them.


Many people expected Vitality and GiFu to be the two teams going to relegations, instead Vitality had possibilities to go to Japan finals in Tokoname.


ROSTER CHANGES

  • GOGA JOINS

  • HUNGRY JOINS

  • QUAAL DROPPED

  • SPARK BENCHED

PREDICTION FOR XI


Honestly. I think Vitality may struggle. They have class - thats for sure - in Biboo, Stigi and Goga but these moves speak to me that Vitality are looking for a consolidation season, to build and progress from there.; They've brought in a 2x World Champion in Goga and a very experienced player in Hungry. Whenever teams in traditional sports do this kind of move, it is to steady a ship and try and create a base to build on.


Vitality for sure had a fantastic Season X, however I presume that their coaching staff believed that under the current roster they wouldn't be able to replicate the same kind of results and have instead turned to steadier hands.


The reason I think Vitality may struggle is that changes create uncertainty, especially when you're bringing in one player that was dropped and one that was relegated - in what I come to understand was quite a disrupted environment at Penta. It will be interesting to see if their mentalities are different now at Vitality, are they refreshed and up for that fight?


The teams performances at Six Invitational Qualifiers were inconsistent at best, poor at worst. Dropping a map to Tier 3 team in MKERS, losing to MnM Gaming. I think that is a sign to come that Vitality may be amazing, or be really really poor. I really like everyone there so I'm hoping for an amazing season there, I just don't see it happening.


Predicted Finished: 6th

VODAFONE GIANTS

Well, this team is certainly an interesting one. They consistently make it to LANs via online performance in Pro League. Thinking back to May, they went to Milan (as LeStream) only to be knocked out early by FaZe Clan. Giants dominated PL IX - only second to Empire.


A similar story happened in PL X - A strong season, although limping to second place after drawing with G2 to effectively seal it. They go to Japan and lose to Aerowolf 2-1. I'm not taking anything away from Aerowolf here, but 99 times out of 100 any other EU team in contention for Japan would beat them over a Best of Three.


Giants keep throwing away LANs, its completely themselves beating themselves and I have no idea whats going on there, or why. I know they only have Crapelle as coach, 1 support staff - it maybe could be that? Arrogance that they would beat the APAC representatives and moving their focus on analysis through to other opponents? Who knows.


Giants picked up Korey to replace Uuno at the start of Season X and really haven't looked back, backed by a big org they do dominate on online play and are all ridiculously talented players.


ROSTER CHANGES

  • ALPHAMA DROPPED

  • RIPZ RUMOURED TO REPLACE


PREDICTION FOR XI


I think that if the rumoured change is true, and Ripz heads over to Giants, thats very interesting. Firstly because this would be one of the best in Pro League, picking up a player who was relegated in Pro League Season IX and finished 4th in Challenger League Season X. Secondly because then the core squad would have two players of the NaVi team that were relegated in Season IX.


The move doesn't make sense to me, but I'm on the outside only thinking in my own logic. There may be 1000x different reasons why the move was needed. I believe that the only logic I can get to is that the team needed a change to freshen things up. Whilst Alphama is clearly a very talented player, securing his own international move across the pond, he was the unlucky one chosen as the most replaceable.


This one step back, two step forwards approach I think will hinder Giants coming into Season XI, but may well benefit them long term.


Predicted Finished: 3rd


NATUS VINCERE

NaVi - what a season - what a fairly tale story. They equalled what Empire did just one season previous. Be promoted, finish 1st in EU and win the Pro League finals - getting themselves a space at the Invitational 2020 in the process.


Season X wasn't without controversy however - Jack 'Doki' Robertson banned in game permanently on his main account - subsequently ESL banned for 6 months meaning he would miss


  • Season IX 2nd half

  • Season IX finals

  • Season X 1st half

  • 2020 Invitational

Details behind the ban remain undisclosed, however it serves as a reminder to anyone that aspires to be at the top to follow the right way of doing things and to be careful with every action they take/ everything they say.


Ellis 'Pie' Pyart was Doki's replacement, on a temporary basis whilst NaVi waited for ESL's ruling. He was then announced on a permanent basis until Doki's return. Pie a strange replacement from the outside, having only played in UK Prem teams before, no CL experience and straight into Pro League. He however, was from the UK, knew the team beforehand and therefore could slot straight in.


The team used the adversity to their advantage, Soaring through Pro League, including a sensational comeback vs G2. Had G2 of won that game instead of NaVi - G2 would have gone to Pro League Season X finals in Japan and Invitational. They eventually went on to win the Pro League Season X finals, a mean feat but in a weakened field.


I'm not taking anything away from NaVi at all - they won a Pro League and I haven't. I'm just saying that if there was a Pro League to win, it was likely going to be one where the usual Juggernauts of LAN (Evil Geniuses, Empire, G2, Rogue) weren't attending and also one where LATAM teams had visa issues alongside your main rival being first rounded in a shock defeat. Fair play to NaVi though, they won it and they can only control themselves.


ROSTER CHANGES


None - is the assumption. Pie will play 1st half Season XI and presumably Doki will be back after that.


Coaching wise - GiG was dropped in a shock move that made little sense to those on the outside, but as mentioned previously, the moves usually make sense on the inside of teams.


PREDICTION FOR XI


I see NaVi struggling. The team had a surge due to the adversity and went on a fairytale run. After a high, usually comes a low, especially when the team is a coach short and a star player short as he is still banned.


I'd love to be surprised by NaVi, but I just see them struggling in a packed Pro League. Its not all doom and gloom though, I think they will finish mid table and with Doki back could well build for something special again next season.


Predicted Finish 5th

G2 ESPORTS

G2 are polarising - I'll just say it. People love them or hate them. Personally I sit within the "love them" camp for a myriad of reasons.


G2's Season X was wild, lets be honest. 1st half of the season was poor, really poor in fact. They decided to pick up 10 points from 7 games, 3 wins, 1 draw, 3 losses. That isn't acceptable for the back to back world champions.


The manner of the defeats was the worst thing, losing to Chaos on Coastline in a bit of a whimper. Losing to Vitality on Bank. It really was a wierd first half of the season and they were basically out of the running.


Fastforward to round 12, G2 were tied with Empire in 2nd place, NaVi hunting them from 3rd place just 1 point behind. All G2 needed to do was beat NaVi and Japan/Invitational was secured. In what was an attacking masterclass on Consulate, G2 went 5-1 up for NaVi to then win 6 rounds in a row and win, ultimately propelling themselves to Japan from the back of that win.


ROSTER CHANGES

  • GOGA DROPPED

  • CRYN JOINS

PREDICTION FOR XI


G2 have too good of a support staff infrastructure and backing from the org to continue being this inconsistent. Cryn, although well documented to not be their first choice, could actually prove to be a very fruitful addition to that line-up.


However, the G2 of recent, getting 1st rounded at OGA and getting knocked out of SI online quals early - doesn't lend itself to a particularly good form.


They start with possibly the "easiest" on paper run on Season XI, not playing NaVi until wk5, Giants until wk6 and Empire wk7. From there, I believe we could see the G2 juggernaut of old.


Predicted Finish 2nd


CHAOS

Chaos, based upon my opinion, are so fortunate to still be in Pro League. But for Penta deciding to implode in Season X, they would have gone down. They are consistently inconsistent, sometimes looking like world beaters, other times looking like a Tier 4 team.


This showed in Season X, they beat G2 looking amazing on Coastline in WK2 but then only drawing with GiFu.


ROSTER CHANGES


Mid season;


  • Kripps dropped

  • Next1 picked up to end of Season X

  • Sha77e picked up for Season XI

PREDICTION FOR XI


I can't think of a team that, on paper, are worse than Chaos right now. I don't really see them beating the juggernauts of last seasons top 4. Past that they also then have to face Vitality, BDS and ForZe. I don't know how they get above any of them.


Luckily though, they can't be relegated.


Predicted Finish 8th

FORZE

ForZe had an expected Challenger League. Finishing 2nd to BDS - which will have disappointed them somewhat although the overall goal would have been Pro League.


They did achieve that in a very very simple and easy win over Penta on Border and Bank. Penta weren't prepared for ForZe and a 7-1, 7-3 win ensued.


ROSTER CHANGES


None.


PREDICTION FOR XI


I think ForZe may struggle, they were comfortably knocked out of the SI Qualifiers by Izidream after losing to Team Secret. They were also destroyed by Empire at the Russian LAN 3-0. As much as I respect ForZe's rise, I think that they may have hit their ceiling at Pro League and may well struggle.


Predicted Finish 7th


EMPIRE

The other Russian giant in Pro League. Empire had a wobbly Pro League Season X by their standards, they kinda did what G2 did the season before where they relaxed knowing that it didn't really matter if they went to the finals or not. Empire already had their Invitational place secured, therefore Japan didn't matter.


THAT being said, at the start of 2nd half, they were top of the league winning 5, drawing 2 and losing none. Their second half of the season they won 2, drew 2 and lost 3. Including a draw with Penta and GiFu, a loss to Chaos and beating Giants.


ROSTER CHANGES


None.


PREDICTION FOR XI


Empire I think will be on point for Season XI. They've been away, likely had a nice break after Season X and not really done that much since, other than a Russian LAN. They've probably worked hard and adapted their strats to fine tune and improve them. I see them as the team to beat this season.


Predicted Finish 1st


BDS ESPORT

BDS, much like ForZe, had one goal - Pro League. They achieved that by consistently being the best team in Challenger League. Only losing on the final map on the final palyday (with top secured) - that day they were memeing basically.


BDS have then progressed on, deciding to work hard and winning their way to Six Invitational through the online qualifiers after themselves flopping at OGA PIT.


ROSTER CHANGES


None.


PREDICTION FOR XI


BDS really could be dark horses for Pro League. I think they'll do really well as they're super strong, don't seem to get flustered and trust themselves to beat whatever the opponents throw at them.


Predicted Finish 4th


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