It’s Christmas time indeed as fans all over the world are about to be treated to another Astralis and Team Liquid matchup in the ESL Pro League Season 8 Grand Final.
The year-long rivals are each heading into the matchup in top form. For Astralis, they’re fresh off two straight LAN wins, with one of those coming against Team Liquid in the Grand Finals of IEM Chicago 2018. Meanwhile, Team Liquid have since rebounded from their winless performance at the ECS Season 6 LAN finals; they won SuperNova Malta a couple of days ago without even dropping a single game and have only lost two maps since, both of which to Astralis during the Group Stages of this very tournament. Not to mention, Team Liquid recently gave both Natus Vincere and MIBR arguably the best worst beating they’ve ever been on the receiving end of in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
This isn’t an all-new storyline, however. We’ve seen this before. Four times this year, Team Liquid have made it to the Grand Finals of a tournament looking primed to win it all only to come across the insurmountable wall that is Astralis. To date, Team Liquid have only taken one map off of Astralis throughout the many times they have faced off this season with the trophy and the first place of a LAN tournament on the line.
Will this ESL Pro League Season 8 Grand Final play differently? Will this finally be the tournament where Team Liquid get over the proverbial hump? Or will Astralis be the victors and claim the trophy, as well as the Intel Grand Slam award?
ESL Pro League Season 8 Grand Final Prediction
Potential Map Veto
The Map Veto in the ESL Pro League Season 8 Grand Final could be interesting. Both of these teams are well capable of playing all seven maps ably, and they’ve faced off against each other enough times to know what the other team prefer. At this point, it’s all about the mind games, and considering the kind of preparation Astralis do in the lead-up to any kind of match, you’d be foolish not to give them the edge in that regard.
Given that fact, Astralis could very well end up banning Nuke themselves. It may be “their” map, but they don’t really need the added pressure of maintaining their record-setting streak right now. Not when so much more is on the line. But, even if they don’t end up banning the said map, Team Liquid will probably do it themselves. Either way, the first two bans of the map will likely be Cache and Nuke, as Astralis have historically shown a particular dislike of the former and it’s also a map where Team Liquid tend to excel.
Keep in mind that this is a best-of-five, so it all could come down to map order and NOT which maps are left.
If Team Liquid get first pick, we could see them pick Dust II while Astralis will likely pick either one of Inferno or Mirage. From there, we could see either of these teams going with Overpass and then Train, with whichever of Mirage or Inferno is left as the fifth and final map.
Astralis are obviously the heavy favourites here. They’re the best team in CS:GO right now and have been for most of the year. It also doesn’t help that they’ve had Team Liquid’s number all-year round. But, we can’t just deny the magnitude of this series — the added pressure of winning in front of their home crowd, with the title and the Intel Grand Slam award on the line, could be what leads to the downfall of Astralis and give Team Liquid a chance to finally exorcise their demons.
Considering that Team Liquid boast three of the top rated players of the tournament, with Keith ‘NAF‘ Markovic fresh off of a standout performance against MIBR where he posted at least a 1.9 rating in each map, this could certainly be the tournament where they flip the script and finally beat Astralis. But, the “script” is there for a reason. For all of NAF’s brilliance, he has posted an average rating of 0.98 against Astralis this year. This includes a very meager 0.55 rating performance against Astralis earlier during the Group Stages.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned so far, it’s that pressure doesn’t seem to faze Astralis any one bit at all. Their days of “choking” is well behind them, as it seems.
Having said that, we have to give credit where credit is due. Team Liquid definitely deserves this chance. It’s just that they have the unfortunate luck of facing off against an Astralis squad who’s on the cusp of history.
Betting: Astralis with a -1.5 handicap in Spread Full Time at 1.5 odds via 10bet.