Remarkably, the top four teams in the world all made it to the four-team playoff bracket in Arlington, setting up the matchups with the highest possible prestige for the ECS Season 8 title. The way this event shakes out could well be a great predictor for the rest of December and the early part of 2020 as well. First, Astralis will have a chance to find a chink in Evil Geniuses' armor, then Liquid and Fnatic will go head to head in what is sort of like a rematch of the IEM Sydney finals earlier this year, albeit with a very different lineup for the Swedes.
Remarkably, the North American side's core has a pretty impressive record against the Danes going back to the NRG days, with their loss in the semi-finals of the StarLadder Berlin Major being more of an exception rather than the rule. Of course, EG won their first event under the new banner in New York off the back of a statement victory over Astralis with a scoreline of three maps to one. Since then, gla1ve and co. procured somewhat of a mixed bag with a semi-final elimination in Malmö, straightforward group wins in the ESL Pro League and, of course, ECS Season 8, a disappointing performance at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen, then a vintage display in Beijing where they demolished FaZe Clan and 100 Thieves on their way to the title, including a memorable 16-0 thrashing over NiKo and his merry men in the semis.
So where does that leave us for this match? It's a tough one to call, and the odds offered are the real reason why we're going to go with EG on this one. Even if you're a hardcore Astralis fan, the prospect of 3.75 odds for the team which trounced your side the last time they met should be worth taking a punt on.
It's a testament to the changing fortunes of these two sides that they haven't met very often over the course of the lats year and a half, with only three encounters to their name since the ECS Season 5 finals last June. Though both rosters went through a few changes, their cores remain intact, suggesting a good understanding of their opponents' playbooks and tendencies. The close scorelines of their recent meetings (2-1 to fnatic at IEM Chicago 2018, 2-1 for Liquid at iBUYPOWER Masters 2019 and 3-2 for Liquid once again in the grand finals of IEM Sydney 2019) also suggest a finely poised encounter in Arlington.
This time, it's fnatic who are on the ascendancy as Liquid try to find their footing since their disappointing performance at the StarLadder Berlin Major. The Swedes seem to have struck gold again by bringing back Golden and flusha, winning DreamHack Masters Malmö and making it to the grand finals of StarSeries i-League Season 8, where they lost to Evil Geniuses. This is as close as we can get to a recent comparison, and the fact that fnatic lost both the upper bracket final and the eventual grand final to the team which Liquid dispatched 2-0 in the groups is surely a cause for worry. This also goes to show that they had an easier group to work their way through, at least where the third- and fourth-place seeds are concerned. With that in mind, we're taking the favorites for this one.
Odds are, of course, subject to change.
Photo credit: HLTV