Betting on the ESL Pro League Season 19 Group Stage: Favorites & Players to Watch

Published: Apr 23, 2024

One of the longest events on the Counter-Strike circuit is back for its 19th edition, as ESL Pro League kicks off on the 23rd of April in sunny Malta. Over the next three weeks, a whopping 32 teams will fight for the lion’s share of the $750,000 prize pool and a ticket to IEM Cologne 2024. Read our ESL Pro League Season 19 group stage Preview below.

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S19 Group Stage Format

ESL Pro League betting is back with 32 teams have been divided into four eight-team groups that will be carried out in a double-elimination bracket. Three teams from each group qualify for the playoffs, while the other five drop down into the Last Chance Stage (each group has its own Last Chance Stage), where they fight for the last playoff spot in a single-elimination bracket.

Depending on where each team finishes in their group, that will determine how many playoff matches they get to skip. The Group Stage will take up the first two weeks of the competition, with groups A & B playing out during the first week, followed by groups C & D.

Group A: Group of Death

CS2 betting fans are in for a treat from the get-go as arguably the most competitive ESL Pro League S19 group is up first, with teams such as FaZe, Virtus.pro, Astralis, and more taking to the server. Besides the favorites, Group A is home to several underdog teams with upset potential, like Eternal Fire, Imperial, or SAW. No matter the results, EPL will certainly be off to a good start in Malta.

Favorites – FaZe

The best team in the world will be looking to continue their dominant CS2 Grand final streak and add another trophy to their already-filled cabinet. A victory at ESL Pro League would put them just one IEM Katowice or IEM Cologne victory away from achieving their second Intel Grand Slam – a feat no organization has managed since its inception.

At IEM Chengdu the team leader Finn “karrigan” Andersen admitted to being tired for the first time in his career, which is a testament to how well FaZe have been doing in Cs2. The question is – do they have the stamina to continue performing at the highest level for the remainder of the Spring season?

Player to Watch – electroNic

Just eight days before Virtus.pro’s opening game at ESL Pro League Season 19, the organization announced their statement signing of Denis “electroNic” Sharipov from Cloud9, replacing Nikolay “mir” Bityukov on their active roster.

The Major winner and Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev’s former right-hand man has opted to change scenery once again, joining forces with one of the most consistent and difficult-to-put-away teams from the CIS region. While electroNic’s addition to the team looks like a perfect fit and a massive upgrade on paper, it will be fascinating to witness his debut in EPL s19’s opening matchup.

Opening Matchups – April 23rd

Group B: Playoffs Up for Grabs

With Vitality and G2 sitting at the top of the food chain in Group B by a considerable margin, securing one of the remaining two playoff spots is an achievable goal for virtually all the other teams. The two playoff spots being up for grabs will make for an exciting and unpredictable viewing experience.

Favorites – Vitality

After their devastating loss to FaZe in the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024 semi-final and completely missing IEM Chengdu, Vitality will be poised to remind everybody that they are one of the best Cs2 teams in the world.

It will be especially interesting to see how Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut responds to the criticism over his below-par Major performance. The Frenchman’s dip in form has to have been temporary if Vitality are to continue being among the Counter-Strike elite.

Player to Watch – Magnojez

Everybody knows that Russia is full of talented young players waiting for their opportunity to show the world what they’ve got. One of the top CS2 players who’s currently making a name for himself in the tier two scene is Kirill “Magnojez” Rodnov.

The 19-year-old rifler has been tearing it up since joining BetBoom, averaging a solid 1.21 rating after a month on the team. If he manages to keep up those performances against some of the world’s best CS2 teams on LAN, then he is one to watch in years to come.

Opening Matchups – April 23rd/24th

Group C: MOUZ and the Rest

Apart from MOUZ and maybe Liquid, there are no other teams that can be predicted to make the playoffs with even remote certainty. Group C offers one of the widest varieties of teams in play, with each squad seemingly capable of besting their opposition on their day. Akin to Group B, the competition is set to be an absolute bloodbath.

Favorites – MOUZ

There are no other candidates for the Group C favorite spot, as MOUZ’s results in 2024 speak for themselves. The young international lineup is yet to lose a group stage match in 2024 and it’s unlikely their streak ends here in Malta.

The youngsters’ struggles usually begin in the playoffs, however, they are coming into this tournament on the back of an impressive semi-final victory against G2 at IEM Chengdu so the tides may be shifting for MOUZ.

Player to Watch – YEKINDAR

Unfortunately for Mareks “YEKINDAR” Galinskis fans, he’s in the spotlight not due to his impressive performances, but rather their lack of. The Lithuanian rifler has been the least impressive piece of the Liquid ‘superteam’ assembled at the tail end of 2023, struggling to provide the impact he once could.

If he doesn’t get his act together sooner than later, he could be on the chopping block come the summer break. Let’s hope he finds his mojo and returns to his 2021/2022 form, powering through the opposition with intense aggression and trademark exuberance.

Opening Matchups – April 30th

Group D: Major Champions are Back

After some well-deserved time off after their Major victory, NAVI are back to show everyone that it wasn’t a fluke and they are one of the best CS2 teams on the planet. As for the rest of the field, every team is in with a chance of an ESL Pro League Season 19 playoff berth, so the competition is bound to be fierce.

Favorites – NAVI

Who else can be a group favorite, but the current Major champions? Due to skipping IEM Chengdu, NAVI had plenty of time to relish in their victory, rest, and come prepared for this tournament. If they continue to approach the game with the same mindset, they should be able to breeze through the competition in the Malta group stage.

NAVI’s coach Andrey “B1ad3” Gorodenskiy stated it’s beneficial to be an underdog after their Major victory. Let’s see how his players fair with the “favorites” label attached to their names in the coming tournaments.

Player to Watch – iM

Although NAVI were the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024 Champions, Mihai “iM” Ivan had a disastrous performance on an individual level. Despite playing in the best positions and traditional star player roles, the Romanian rifler sported a terrible 0.88 rating throughout the event.

One could look at the situation in two ways – NAVI won the Major without a well-performing iM, so there is a ton of untapped potential waiting to be realized or NAVI won the Major despite iM’s poor showing and they should get rid of him in the long run. His performances in the coming months will be crucial to determining his future.

Opening Matchups – April 30th/May 1st

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Bruno Sobieraj

Since: September 16, 2023

My name is Bruno and my love for Counter-Strike was sparked when the Polish Virtus.pro was plowing through opponents from 2014 to 2018. Since then, I’ve been dreaming of working in esports and here I am.

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