s1mple To Step Up, Astralis’ Time To Shine in ESL Pro League Group D

ESL Pro League Group D begins in a few days, bringing the group stage to a close. There are some interesting matchups and storylines here, with many of the better teams in this group underperforming lately.

These are some of the talking points to look out for going into Group D.

ESL Pro League Group D

Credit: Adela Sznajder/ © ESL

s1mple To Step Up?

The last time NAVI played was a crushing defeat at IEM Katowice 2023. Afterward, s1mple gave a frank assessment of their performance, claiming that “on stage some players are still shitting their pants”. For NAVI to turn around their fortunes, they need their star man to leave this attitude in Katowice.

NAVI are in transition, relying on 17-year-old npl to stand up and be counted amid underperformance from his team. Amongst it all, the usually-reliable s1mple hasn’t looked himself, and probably harbors more blame than he’d ever publicly admit. But you don’t stop being the best CS:GO player of all time overnight, and he must show why he’s gained that status. With a resurgent ZywOo hitting form for Vitality, s1mple should see it as a challenge to his throne, and make a statement in ESL Pro League Group D.

We think they’ll qualify, but if s1mple can’t step up, they won’t go much further.

Astralis’ Moment?

It’s like Groundhog Day with Astralis. “Maybe this time it’ll click for them.” It usually doesn’t. At least, not to the degree they want it to. A strong performance in the recent BLAST Paris Major Europe RMR qualifier offers some hope. To their credit, they do usually defeat teams they should be beating on paper.

Things have been steadily improving for Astralis, despite some hiccups. The return of dev1ce has helped, with the iconic AWPer looking every bit as sharp as he was years ago. Young gun Buzz has put in some strong-if-inconsistent performances, and he can be a huge asset if he works on that consistency. The main weaknesses are gla1ve and Xyp9x, and their performances will define how far they can go in ESL Pro League Season 17.

Fully fixing the glaring issues with this Astralis roster requires the bravery to move on from Xyp9x, but that’s a struggle while they continue integrating Buzz. Snatching one of the playoff spots here would be a good step forward in the Astralis comeback. They’ve just got to hope they avoid Liquid and NAVI along the way.

Liquid’s Stepping Stone in ESL Pro League Group D

Liquid are another team with plenty to prove. They’ve been somewhat of a CS:GO meme lately with their tendency to throw away huge leads out of nowhere.

IEM Katowice 2023 offered hope to Liquid fans, with a series of good performances that saw them defeat Vitality and FaZe, only falling to eventual winners G2. Looking at recent performances, as individuals Liquid are in strong form. Even oSee, who has faced much criticism, finally came into his own in Katowice. Meanwhile, YEKINDAR saw a return to form, and NAF remained consistent. It wasn’t perfect, but there were definitely encouraging signs. Group D could just be another stepping stone on their journey, but Liquid have a great chance to deliver more dreams for the future here.

Liquid can make a massive statement here by beating NAVI to the quarter-finals spot, winning Group D.

Our qualifying predictions: NAVI, Liquid, ENCE, and Astralis.