ESL Road to Rio – North American Semi-Finals & EU Group Play – May 9, 2020

     We have a slate full of super series on Saturday with the North American region playing their semi-final match and European group play coming to a close. Friday wasn’t an easy day so I’m hoping to find more success today. It’s feels like a fall Saturday morning, starting just after noon I’ll be doing nothing all day besides sitting on my couch, drinking beers and making plays. I’m looking forward to this day full of CSGO followed up by a huge UFC card. I’ll be staying away from the CIS region in order to focus on the more popular parts of the slate. Making picks in the CIS region has also been extremely difficult for me including a 0-2 record for yesterday. After that we hit on Copenhagen Flames before losing with Mouse and Cloud9. Saturday is a new day and we’ll bounce back. Let’s get started with what should be the most watched series in the EU region.

Ninjas in Pajamas (+130) vs. Fnatic (-160) – 12:30pm – Road to Rio (EU)

      We kick off the day with the two top Swedish organizations going to battle. These teams have met a couple times over the past few months with Fnatic winning each of the series two maps to one. This series feels a little different though as NiP is clearly in better form. Fnatic has been disappointing in Rio, currently sitting in a tie for third place in the group with a 3-3 record. NiP on the other hand, sits at the top of the group at 5-1 with their only loss coming to Astralis. Despite the record, NiP hasn’t been invincible as they dropped a map in all but one of their wins. I would have to say the map pool favors Fnatic, but if you look at just maps played in Rio that wouldn’t be the case. Fnatic will just their first ban on Vertigo which takes away NiPs biggest advantage. NiP will ban Dust2, but that won’t bother Fnatic as they should pick Inferno or maybe Mirage. NiP’s map pick will most likely be Overpass where they recently beat Fnatic 16-2. Regardless of the picks, I see each of the first two maps as basically coin flips. I don’t see either of these teams winning 2-0 so my play will come on the over at +100. Once the maps are picked I may put in a play on NiP as they are clearly in better form in Rio.

Miner’s Money Pick: Total maps o2.5 (+100)

 

Vitality (-170) vs Heretics (+140) – 12:30pm – Road to Rio (EU)

     We have another two organizations going to battle to stake their claim as the best French team. Team Vitality and Heretics come into this one tied in group play. Each team should be extremely focused as the winner of this will control their own destiny and guarantee themself a spot in the playoffs. Team Vitality has a massive advantage in the map pool right off the start. Each team uses their first ban on Train and since Vitality picks second they should have the chance to ban Heretics best map, which is most likely Nuke. I have to also give the skill advantage to Vitality. They are clearly the more decorated organization, ranking inside the top 10 globally. All of Heretics group play wins have came against the bottom three in the group. These teams have basically gotten beaten up by everybody, with Ence being the most competitive of the bunch. Ence was able to beat Vitality but Ence couldn’t miss that day. All in all, I expect this match to be a close one, but feel much more comfortable backing the better players in such a big match. I’ll be parlay Vitality with Astralis in order to bring the juice down. A two team parlay between the two is -108. Astralis is the best team at Rio and should be able to handle Ence in the series, but don’t be surprised to see Ence steal a map.

Miner’s Money Pick: Vitality parlayed with Astralis (-108) *1.5u*

 

Furia (+117) vs Team Liquid (-147) – 4:00pm – Road to Rio (NA)

      The North American playoffs draw to a close with the winner of this matchup moving on to face Gen.G in the finals! In my opinion, this match should be the finals. Either of these teams will be a heavy favorite in the Grand Finale as they are a class above Gen.G. Furia and Liquid come into this with plenty of recent tape on each other. They have played two best of three series since late march with Furia winning each of those. Liquid won the first series 2-0. Most recently, Furia beat Liquid 2-0 in group play at Rio. Furia came into that game and executed their gameplay to perfection. They made Liquid uncomfortable from the start, won a majority of opening duels and didn’t blow their man advantages. Furia finished off Rio Group play undefeated earning a bye into the semi-finals. I expect Liquid to be much more prepared for the quick frag and fall back tactics that Furia used.

     Liquid should continue to use their first ban on Train, although they may be tempted to use it on Vertigo as Furia doesn’t play Train often either. Furia used Vertigo as their first pick in their last series which looked like it came as a complete surprise to Liquid. Furia won that map 16-5. In the prior meetings, Furia had used their first pick on Nuke but lost each of those picks to Liquid. I think it will suit them best to stay away from Nuke. If they have confidence in their play at Nuke they should be able to get it as the third map anyway. If things go as planned, Furia will use their first ban on Dust2. This should make Liquid go back to their bread and butter of Inferno, even though Furia upset them here recently, I don’t see much other options for Liquid. I expect that they make the adjustments needed to secure a win there. I expect Furia to pick Mirage. They have a 9-map win streak on Mirage going 9-1 over their last 10. That streak includes a win over Liquid. The final map should determine who moves on to the playoffs. I expect Liquid to use their second ban on Vertigo after the whooping they got there last week. This will allow Furia to pick between Nuke and Overpass as the final map. They’ll have to go with whatever they’re more prepared for since neither of these teams are necessarily confident on either of those maps. If I had to back a side, I would go with Furia at +money since they’ve looked like the much better test in Rio, but my play will come on over 2.5 maps at +101. Once I see how the map picks shape up I may opt in to make a play on Furia as I see value at +money in what should be a coin flip, especially if Liquid catches some late steam. *Update*: Furia line has moved to +130 which implies 43% chance to win which creates value. The match will most likely be delayed until the end of Fnatic/NiP. I’m going to wait, but will make a play if Furia climbs to +135/140.

Miner’s Money Pick: Total maps o2.5 (+101)

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