Today I (@SmithhMedia) will be running you through the teams that are attending ESL Katowice in Poland on Thursday!

The teams have been sorted into ‘Legends’ and ‘Challengers’, Legends are the top 8 teams from the previous major Dreamhack winter and the Challengers are the teams that qualified through the offline qualifier in Poland a month ago. The reason it is important to get into the Legends category is because of the large amount of income through the in game sticker system valve provided for the event and a better seed coming into the event in terms of whom you play within the groups.

The legends consist of the Dreamhack and MLG Aspen champions EnVyUS. The first major winner in last year’s Dreamhack Winter event Fnatic. The former Katowice champion from last year, Team Virtus Pro. The team which won the ESL Cologne event at Gamescom in the summer, The Ninja’s in Pyjamas along with well known teams within eSports such as Hellraisers, Natus Vincere, Penta and TSM.

The challengers who qualified consist off the likes of the Finish Hope 3DMAX, the most successful American team outside America Cloud9! Another American team formally under the name MousSpaz and now known as Counter Logic Gaming. The CIS line-up with the AWPing power under WorldEdit and what would be S1mple, which is known as FlipSid3 Tatics. The Brazilian line-up which has attending the likes of MLG Aspen and Clutchcon, Keyd Stars. LGB eSports, one of the most up and coming teams in Europe currently trying to make a upset in the groups which they will be playing Titan, which has the one man army, the star AWPer, the best French player in Counter strike at the moment, KennyS! Also, the Australian organization Vox Eminor, a team which has surprised a lot of people by getting to Poland and has attended ESL Cologne previously.

Group A consists of
• Natus Vincere
• Fnatic
• Vox Eminor
• FlipSid3 Tatics

In my personal opinion I think alot of upsets can potentially happen within this group due to Na’Vi’s inconsistent performances of recent times on online, along with Vox Eminor’s surprise factor due to them deciding not to bootcamp in Europe this will give them an edge strategically and a surprise element with European teams rarely watching and studying them too. My predictions are that Fnatic will win both of them games playing Vox Eminor and the Winner of FlipSid3 and Na’Vi which in that game I think Na’Vi is more than likely to win the match with it being a BO1 but FlipSid3 can win, depending on the map choice. So I think the people advancing from the groups will be:
• Fnatic
• Natus Vincere

Group B consists of:
• Team EnVyUS
• PENTA eSports
• LGB eSports
• Titan.Pro

This group has a big mixture of very experienced; very talented teams along with the French duo of Team EnVyUS and Titan but includes the Duo of LGB and Penta, the inexperienced, uprising talent. The way this group is set up with PENTA getting the number 2 seed, Penta has the easier first game playing LGB which the only thing which will favour either of the two teams is the map choice. This is the same for the Titan vs nV game which can go either way depending on map since both of the French lineups, at one point in time, have played with one another. I think the two teams that will proceed into the legends category and the quarter finals are:
• Team EnVyUS
• Titan Pro

Group C consists of:
• Ninjas In Pyjamas
• Hell Raisers
• Counter Logic Gaming
• Keyd Stars

This team is probably one of the easier ones out of the four because of the surprise upset in groups with HellRaisers back in November. I think the first game should be the easiest out of any at ESL Katowice with NiP playing Keyd Stars, yet because of the best of 1 format happening in groups anything could occur. The other game in the group is Counter Logic Gaming and HellRaisers, this matchup will depend on which HellRaisers turn up and what CLG turns up, if the likes of Dosia and KucheR performs as well as we know they can and if the likes of Tarik and ptr runs the show and dominates the game like they have been doing in ESEA and CEVO. I think the two teams that will proceed will be:
• Ninjas in Pyjamas
• Counter Logic Gaming

Group D consists of:
• Team Virtus Pro
• TSM Kinguin
• Cloud9 G2A

As commonly known in other sports, this is the group of death which consists of Virtus pro and 3DMAX being the first match. This match up does favour Virtus Pro but for people knowing 3DMAX they are usually underestimated which people should know from them beating Fnatic at the DreamHack Winter Invitational. The second match will be more ‘fair’ with the matchup with the Denmark TSM line-up formally under the Dignitas organization and the Cloud 9 line-up which is attending there first major since bombing out of the groups in Sweden. This matchup, in my opinion might end up on the map Nuke due to TSM famously being one of the strongest teams on that map along with NiP and Cloud 9! Yet again this match up can fling other way depending on the key players of the 2 teams such as Device and Dupreeh from TSM and from Cloud 9 n0thing and Shroud and ShaZaM. From my knowledge the teams that should go through to the quarter finals are:
• TSM Kinguin
• Team Virtus Pro

From this if following the previous format for deciding the quarter finals. The next match ups should be:
• Natus Vincere vs Virtus Pro
• Fnatic vs TSM
• Team EnVyUS vs Counter Logic Gaming
• Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Titan

Going into this it will become a Best of 3 format with the Pick and Ban format for vetos. This means that the 2 teams will get there choice of maps and the third map will always be picked by random. This means that there is more of a chance of a competitive third map and more of a random series.

Natus Vincere vs. Virtus pro usually ends up, judging from online play, famously play Mirage due to Na’Vi’s domination with Guardian’s AWPing and Virtus pro’s overpowering aim and use of entry fragging. Na’Vi will usually pick Dust 2 in that circumstances due to Guardian yet again and Na’Vi’s ability to late round call and rotate fast. Also another option for the 2nd map could be overpass yet this might be a veto along with nuke due to Na’Vi focusing on certain maps instead of trying to be as good on every map! The 3rd map has a potential to be a Inferno due to it being a 1.6 map and Na’Vi and Virtus pro both having experience on this map as a unit for 5+ years.

The match up with Fnatic and Team Solo Mid will be one of the most interesting out of the four match ups due to their Aim vs Aim capability with the players such as KRiMZ, Olofm and Device and Dupreeh. Due to this maps that will show off the likes of the star players will be Nuke! This occurred during the MLG Aspen Quarter finals where TSM got the better of them on Nuke! Another map that could be picked is Inferno where Fnatic are most famously known as the best team on that map due to KRiMZ ability to hold the B site and JW to lock down the middle of the map and prevent teams from quickly pushing into the A site. The final map could decide who wins this series due to Fnatic’s wide choice of map pool compared to TSM being better on aim heavy maps. So if the map is decided on a map such as Overpass is could easily be in favour of Fnatic.

The 3rd Quarter finals matchup it will be the rematch of the group stage of MLG Aspen with Counter Logic Gaming vs Team EnVyUS both under brand new organizations! With both teams being top class teams on De_Dust2, both teams will want to pick it since it led to a quality match up in America! With CLG being a extremely strong team on Nuke they might pick it with EnVy being weak on it. Another map they will want to play might be Mirage since both teams are strong on with both teams being able to run the double AWP set up. With me knowing EnVy well enough, I know that they will want to play Inferno also so the key component of this series will be the Veto’s.

The final matchup of the quarter finals will be the Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Titan. This matchup will be famous from the beginning of CSGO due to the NiP vs Very Games matchups. Both teams have a similar map pool due to basing their play of the AWPer and the entry fragging roles of Allu and Friberg from Ninjas In Pyjamas and apEX and KennyS of Titan. Titan’s map consists of a 3 main maps of Nuke, Dust2 and Mirage! Where the Ninja’s usually like to play Inferno, Dust 2, Cache and Nuke! Even though Titan play Nuke a lot, they most likely Veto it along with Inferno since beating nV on it recently! I think the key features of this map will come down to the AWPer’s of KennyS and Allu and how they freely roam the map and how the how players of the teams shut them players down.

The semi-final match ups in my opinion will turn out like this:
• Virtus Pro vs Fnatic
• Ninjas In Pyjamas vs Team EnVyUS

To me, this is the best semi-final match ups that could occur if no upsets happen with all 4 major winners being in the race to win their 2nd major in CSGO history! With the Virtus Pro and Fnatic line-up they have very similarly map pools with both teams having their best success of Inferno, Mirage and Cache! Both teams have quote on quote ‘backup’ maps with the likes of Virtus Pro being one of the only good teams on Cobblestone and Fnatic looking strong on overpass since the controversy of the ‘Olofboost’ that happened at the last major! So I think people will be expecting Fnatic to win this match up but, from the last event in Poland, the home crowd advantage played a huge part is the reason why Virtus pro managed to take down Ninja’s in Pyjamas in the final!

The other match up with Ninjas in Pyjamas faceing off against Team EnVy will be a rematch of the Dreamhack Winter finals and the MLG Aspen Finals were EnVy, Formally Team-LDLC, got the better of them on both occasions where both series had Inferno picked along with Dust2! So basing off the past both of them maps will come up with Ninjas in Pyjamas picking Inferno and EnVy picking Dust2! In the last two series, Cobblestone and Overpass has been the deciding maps which knowing Ninjas in Pyjamas past, haven’t been there strong maps so the key of this series is Xist banning the correct maps and getting the best maps to beat EnVy!

The final I think will be Team Virtus Pro and Team EnVyUS due to the crowd advantage! This matchup will be the best possible with the Virtus Pro wanting to win the major in their home turf again and EnVyUS being the strongest team on LAN in recent moments with Shox being used to the best of his ability under Happy’s in game leadership. This matchup in terms of map wise will be similar to the VP and Fnatic game because of the similarities of the two map pools! Even though EnVy might not be pressured by the home crowd advantage I think it will have an effect on them since anything Virtus Pro will do positively and anything Team EnVy will do negativity will be cheered which was the case at the last Katowice event when Virtus Pro played NiP. Overall I think Virtus pro has the potential to win the event due to players like Pasha and Neo always performing on an international event and with the likes of Snax and Byali being the heavy fragger roles and TaZ being the in game leader, they have the capability’s to win the event!