Previewing Liquid's Grand Finals
Probably the most exciting match for a North American fan in years is set to take place in the next few hours as Liquid faces off against their European challengers, Vitality. Liquid is headed towards a LAN Grand Final for the first time since BLAST Pro Series: Grand Final 2019 in Bahrain where they finished as runners up to Astralis. This is also the first LAN Grand Final in an open format for Liquid and NA since Liquid came in 2nd at ECS Season 8 in December 2019 where they also were defeated by Astralis in the Grand Final.
As fate would have it, Nick "nitr0" Cannella's men will once again have to face off against Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen, Emil "magisk" Reif, and Danny "zonic" Sørensen who were all part of that legendary Astralis team before departing in the beginning of the year. Liquid have not fared well, historically, against the Astralis members and were infamous for winning their Intel Grand Slam in 2019 specifically because the Astralis team at the time was facing burnout and skipped several events.
In this edition of the historic battle, everyone is on their top form. Despite a shocking group stage loss to Eternal Fire, in which Keith "NAF" Markovic said it "lit a lot of fire in us" Liquid have battled through fnatic, MOUZ, and Cloud9 en route to the final. Vitality, as a reward for finishing top of Group A, only had to play Outsiders and G2 who were both easily dispatched in 2-0 affairs. Of the stronger sides on paper, Vitality is certainly looking like the candidate to take the win. They breezed through the group stage without dropping a single match and have only lost two maps in their entire campaign. For anyone that thinks this will be easy, think again.
Liquid are certainly the underdog in this situation as they have continued to stumble somewhat worryingly through the group stages and into the playoffs. In yesterday's early battle against Cloud9, Liquid let slip a 12-3 lead at the half on Ancient and failed to get more than a single round on their T-side upon losing the map 16-13. While they were able to mentally rally and eventually win the match, NA fans will hope that Ancient does not come into play during today's game.
And by the grace of Gaben, Liquid fans will not have to witness another classic Liquid choke on Ancient as we should continue to expect Vitality to ban it. With that, we should also not expect to see any kind of Nuke play from Liquid. I would expect to see Vertigo coming out of Vitality, while Liquid picks Mirage. We will likely also see Dust2 and Overpass come next and my best guess is that we should see Inferno as a map five with no other logic than "yeah, of course it would be Inferno".
The keys to success in today's game will once again be getting Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis to be as comfortable this morning as possible. Make sure he got a good breakfast, has had plenty of water, and maybe him a relaxing massage. Liquid literally needs to do anything they can so that their star entry can have the best game of his life. When Liquid has done well, it's usually been with YEKINDAR also having an otherwordly game. When he has struggled, so has the team. Additionally, we need to see Josh "oSee" Ohm have a more consistent day. Despite top fragging yesterday, at times he seemed to miss the easy shots that could easily convert rounds. We don't always need the star 3k out of the AWPer, but he will need to be a bit more reliable when facing Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut in today's battle. Finally, Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski needs to play off well with his team and ensure that he can be the star rifler he has been all event. With YEKINDAR making space, NAF reliably putting in a shift, EliGE has the be the main converter in these rounds if Liquid is to stand a chance.
Let's make no mistake here, Liquid will be a heavy underdog in the fight against Vitality. They're going up against a team that not only has not lost a single match, but they have dropped two maps the ENTIRE EVENT. I don't think how understated that has been. They are an unstoppable force while Liquid seems to have been grinding out matches just to get to the next stage. In all honesty, Liquid don't even need to win. They've already shown they're on the up and anything from here on out is just gravy. They're going to take this momentum to the RMR and eventually Rio. We are seeing NA CS coming back in a strong way after so many years. Liquid will face off against Vitality at 11:00AM today.