With none of the top seven teams on the season leaderboards in attendance, the Starladder ImbaTV Minor provides a rare chance for teams to rake in some much-needed Qualifying Points for that coveted direct invite to The International 8.
VGJ.Thunder are easily the heavy favourites to win the Starladder ImbaTV Minor. Though they didn’t perform up to their usual standards at DAC 2018, they remain a formidable squad. It doesn’t hurt that their closest competitions are Fnatic and Natus Vincere. The former are huge unknowns after making a sudden roster substitution just days before the tournament. Meanwhile, Natus Vincere have not looked good since adding Ilya ‘Lil‘ Ilyuk to their roster.
Of course, this is Dota 2. Upsets can and will happen. Having said that, below are our picks for the first four matches of the group stages of the Starladder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5.
VGJ.Thunder vs FlyToMoon
Match Schedule: April 12, 2018 (Thursday 12:00 EEST)
CIS teams are always a treat to watch as underdogs. They almost always deliver quality dota, even if they don’t win. Unfortunately, as much as we’d love to root for underdogs, a newly-formed stack like FlyToMoon have little chance of winning against the more seasoned VGJ.Thunder, who are looking at this tournament as a chance to secure their eighth place spot on the season leaderboards.
Betting: VGJ.Thunder to win at 1.3 odds (GGbet)
OpTic Gaming vs Team Kinguin
Match Schedule: April 12, 2018 (Thursday 15:00 EEST)
Had Team Kinguin improved on their performance earlier this season, this would’ve made for an interesting matchup. But alas, they didn’t. In fact, they’ve gone backwards and appear to be struggling, which is not the form they need up against OpTic Gaming, who are fresh off strong showings at a couple of Pro Circuit LAN tournaments over the past few months.
Betting: OpTic Gaming to win at 1.32 odds (GGbet)
Vega Squadron vs SG e-sports
Match Schedule: April 13, 2018 (Friday 12:00 EEST)
Even though SG e-sports have appeared in more LANs this season, this is Vega Squadron’s series to lose and you’d best bet that Muriëlle ‘Kips‘ Huisman has made sure that her squad makes the most out of their limited chance to gain some valuable LAN experience.
Betting: Vega Squadron to win at 1.53 odds (ArcaneBet)
Fnatic vs Natus Vincere
Match Schedule: April 13, 2018 (Friday 15:00 EEST)
Natus Vincere are struggling and there’s no point denying it. Vladimir ‘RodjER‘ Nikogosyan was a much bigger part of the team’s success than most people realize, and with Lil in his place, and Akbar ‘SoNNeikO‘ Butaev gone from the roster, they lack a strong voice to keep them in line when things get tense. But, who knows? Playing in front of the home crowd at the Starladder ImbaTV Minor might just be enough to get back in playing shape.
With Fnatic playing with a stand-in — a very capable one, but a substitute still — they have a huge chance of pulling off yet another upset at Fnatic‘s expense.
Betting: Natus Vincere to win at 2.73 odds (ArcaneBet)