Put six teams who are either starting to climb up the rankings after a fall from grace or are faced with a possible end to their time on the top against each other, and you get the explosive mixture that is Group A.
Heroic was one of the teams that took the online era as an opportunity to rise to the top. The cadiaN led squad are the defending champions at EPL, beating Gambit in the final of Season 13. However, recent results have been slightly disappointing, as Heroic failed to reach the play-offs of IEM Cologne. With CS:GO making a temporary return to online competition, Heroic is set to return back to the top.
Astralis had looked mediocre for a few months but suddenly showed promise at IEM Cologne. The Danes now have to build on that good showing to keep the momentum rolling. With the recent addition of Lucky and gla1ve signing a new contract, Astralis seem to have entered a building phase for its roster. But with the PGL Major on the horizon, the Danes will be eager to ramp up their performances. Starting with the ESL Pro League.
Vitality ended 2020 as one of the best teams in the world. After replacing legend of the French scene rpk with youngster kyojin, Vitality struggled to regain their position on the top. With kyojin still adjusting to the high level of competition, the French squad was quickly eliminated from several tournaments. But before the player break, we started to see improvements in their play. We could see Vitality claim their spot among the best once again.
Spirit was a surprising semifinalist at IEM Katowice but has not been able to build on that achievement. The squad is still considered to have one of the highest skill ceilings in the world, but inconsistency plagues the Russians. If they want to be considered as one of the real elite teams in CS:GO, they need to find form in the bigger events, not just when they compete in their own region.
Ence is a weird team to assess. Their lineup seems very exciting, but not too memorable. They've been competitive, but not a contender. While the roster is still pretty new, they need to start delivering. EPL could be a breakout tournament that sees a return of Ence to the highest echelon of Counter-Strike. It might also be the breaking point for the roster. A disappointing result won't be enough for their ambitious Finnish bosses.
Bad News Bears
The fact that BnB is playing at EPL is impressive in itself. The team is still not signed to an organization, has little to no financial backing and had to qualify through ESEA Premier. For the players, EPL will be a stage to show what they are worth. BnB is not playing to win trophies, but to impress potential organizations.