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Esports: ESL Pro League Friday match previews

The penultimate group in season 17 of the ESL Pro League is well underway, with FaZe Clan and Team Vitality having already secured their spots in the playoffs with runs to the upper-bracket final.

The pair will meet on Sunday, with the winners of the contest set to advance directly to the quarter-finals, but ultimately both can play that match with the knowledge they are already through to the knockout stage.

As for the rest of the group, it is now time for the continuation of the mid bracket and the start of the lower bracket, with the final two qualifying spots to be determined.

Groups A and B have already concluded in this season's ESL Pro League and there will be a total of 16 teams - four from each group - competing in the event's playoff stage, with the eventual champions set to scoop $850,000 and qualify for the IEM Cologne and the BLAST Premier World Finals.

On Friday, the two mid-bracket semi-finals in Group C take place with OG first up against paiN Gaming, before a clash between Ninjas in Pyjamas and Grayhound in Malta.

Punters should not rush to back unconvincing OG

WhatpaiN Gaming v OG
When10AM ET, Friday March 10th
How to watchESL Twitch & Youtube channels
OddspaiN Gaming +175, OG -250

European outfit OG are eighth in the HLTV world CS:GO rankings and are considered one of the stronger teams competing in season 17 of the ESL Pro League but their recent performances have been underwhelming.

OG managed only one win in three matches in their most recent major - the IEM Katowice - meaning they placed in the 9th-12th positions.

And they have not looked any more convincing in the ESL Pro League.

Their campaign got underway with a 2-0 win over 00Nation, but that was a game they were expected to win and even then they looked vulnerable on the first map - Ancient - having been taken to overtime in a 22-18 success.

And OG looked pretty toothless in their subsequent upper-bracket semi-final in the ESL Pro League, losing 2-0 to defending champions Team Vitality as expected, but putting up little of a fight with only 14 rounds won across the two maps.

That knocked them down to the mid-bracket semi-finals and they are 2/5 to beat paiN Gaming, who lost their opener to Ninjas in Pyjamas but won their first mid-bracket contest 2-0 against Rooster to reach this stage.

Punters should not rush to back OG at that price given their recent inconsistencies but paiN Gaming, who are 30th in the HLTV world rankings, do not exactly stand out as a great option either.

With that in mind, the way to play this could be to back over 2.5 maps at -110.

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Ninjas In Pyjamas can assert their authority

WhatNinjas in Pyjamas v Grayhound
When1.30PM ET, Friday March 10th
How to watchESL Twitch & Youtube channels
OddsNinjas in Pyjamas -1600, Grayhound +700

With a 40 per cent win rate in the last three months, Ninjas in Pyjamas have not exactly been tearing it up on the CS:GO circuit.

They lost three of their four matches at the BLAST Premier Spring Groups in January, finishing in the 10th-12th places, before losing both of their matches at the IEM Katowice.

It is therefore fair to say they did not come into season 17 of the ESL Pro League in blistering form, but while they typically underperform against the circuit's big guns, Ninjas in Pyjamas are pretty reliable when it comes to dispatching the lesser lights.

That has been the case in this tournament so far, with Ninjas opening with a 2-0 win over paiN Gaming, comfortably prevailing on Nuke and Vertigo, before getting swept aside by FaZe Clan in their upper-bracket semi-final.

Fortunately their next opponents - Grayhound - fall into the category of lesser lights rather than big hitters and are down in 40th spot in the HLTV world CS:GO rankings.

As a result, Ninjas in Pyjamas are -1600 to win this one and it is a tough one to squeeze value out of, but for those anticipating a comfortable victory for the favourites, Ninjas at -12.5 on the rounds handicap makes plenty of appeal at -125.

Grayhound were completely outrun in their first match against Team Vitality, losing 16-4 16-5, and a similar scoreline against Ninjas in Pyjamas is not out of the question.

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