The first big tournament of the 2023 season for Counter Strike: Global Offensive, IEM Katowice is perhaps the most prestigious of CS:GO tournaments.
It might not be a major, but it is a tournament that all the pros want to win and the roll of honour is illustrious, with the likes of fnatic, Virtus.pro and Astralis all winning at the Spodek Arena.
With a lack of action on Friday, we look ahead to the big event, analysing the chances of the teams towards the head of the To Win Outright market.
The outright favorites are FaZe Clan, who will bid to retain their crown after their maiden win at the Spodek last February. Led by an MVP performance by Helvijs "broky" Saukants, FaZe ripped their way through the tournament, defeating G2 Esports in the final.
FaZe did not enjoy a strong end to the 2022 season, however, with a shock 15-16th exit at the IEM Rio Major. That was followed up by a second-placed finish at BLAST Premier Fall Final and a third-fourth exit at BLAST Premier World Final.
A team like FaZe would have been expected to finish their campaign with much more gusto and it is made all the more worrying by the resurgence of teams such as Vitality and G2. Although it is understandable that they are favorites, +400 is a slim price for a side with something to prove.
A team who ended 2022 in rip-roaring fashion was Heroic, who narrowly missed out on IEM Rio Major glory. They dropped just one match on their way to the final but ultimately found Outsiders too strong.
Compensation was quick to come, however, as they thrilled the home crowd to win BLAST Premier Fall Final in Copenhagen. They did not back that up at BLAST Premier World Final, but they were playing with a stand-in, so that performance is forgivable.
They finished third-fourth in Katowice in 2022 and their strong LAN performances throughout the year augurs well for a strong showing in Poland.
Much like FaZe, Natus Vincere ended 2022 on a low note and will need to bounce back to their very best if they are to justify such skinny outright odds.
They finished fifth-eighth at the IEM Rio Major but subsequent early exits at BLAST Fall Final and World Final were particularly disappointing. At the latter, they experimented with bringing 17-year-old Andrii "npl" Kukharskyi into the line-up as a sixth man, a move that ultimately backfired.
It is still early days for that particular experiment, however, and Natus Vincere cannot be expected to struggle for many more tournaments. With the undisputed best player in the world at the helm, they are sure to make a deep run at Katowice, no matter how poor their form was to end 2022.
There is no getting around it, 2022 was not a good year to be a G2 Esports fan. The International roster failed to qualify for the IEM Rio Major and a fifth-sixth finish at BLAST Fall Final was just the continuation of a difficult year - despite very strong additions.
The narrative was firmly changed at BLAST World Final in Abu Dhabi, however, as the squad lost just one game on their way to a dominant tournament success - their first since 2019.
Provided they can head into 2023 in the same type of form, they would be huge contenders in Katowice. They were second 12 months ago after all, but everything hinges on consistency; something G2 has lacked for a long time.
The current Cloud9 roster (+700) won IEM Katowice in 2021 and will be looking to build on a fair fifth-eighth finish at the IEM Rio Major. The team that won in Rio, Outsiders (+800), were dumped out in last place at BLAST World Final but are a strong contender if back on song.
FURIA (+800) almost completed a fairytale run at their home major, finishing third-fourth, and they will be optimistic of a strong showing alongside Team Liquid (+900), who were second to G2 at BLAST World Final and whose form was much-improved towards the end of the year.
At double-figure odds, MOUZ (+1600) could be the dark horses in Katowice. Their third-fourth finish at the IEM Rio Major was a big effort from a young squad who have all the potential in the world. It is unlikely we have seen anywhere near their best and 2023 could be a huge year for the Christopher "dexter" Nong-led squad.
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