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There are three big matches taking place on Saturday

Esports: IEM Katowice preview

The group stage of IEM Katowice 2023 begins on Saturday, where 16 teams will bid to etch their name into the rich history of the Spodek Arena in Poland.

IEM Katowice is not a major, but it is perhaps the most prestigious of Counter Strike: Global Offensive’s yearly tournaments and is one that all teams want to win.

FaZe won last year’s event, but they have not been at their peak at recent tournaments and G2, last year’s runners up, are the form team at present. 

Who will be successful on day one? Read our in-depth preview below.

WhatCloud9 vs Natus Vincere, IEM Katowice
WhereSpodek Arena, Poland
When6:30am, Saturday February 4th 
How to watchYouTube, Twitch
OddsCloud9 -138, Natus Vincere +100

The year has not started in the fashion that Natus Vincere would have imagined and they look vulnerable as they take on Cloud9 in the opening match of the group stage. 

NAVI have dropped to sixth in the HLTV world rankings after a pair of lacklustre finishes at BLAST Premier Fall Final and Premier World Final; placing 5-6th at both tournaments. 

That is below their lofty standard and they scraped into the BLAST Premier Spring Final after a narrow victory over Complexity in Spring Groups. 

The roster is still in its infancy, with npl joining just one month ago, but his 0.93 rating since joining the team is still disappointing and their recent form will not be enough to defeat Cloud9. 

Although they exited the Rio Major at the quarter-final stage, prior wins over FaZe, NAVI and Heroic were impressive, and they eased their way into IEM Katowice after wins over IHC and ENCE in the play-in stage. 

sh1ro, the world’s third-best player in 2022, continued his rampant form in that series against ENCE and once buster gets accustomed to his new teammates, this version of Cloud9 will be particularly dangerous. 

The advantage lies with Cloud9 as a result and their odds of -138 could represent value on their own. That being said, a sweep for Cloud9 is far from an impossibility and at +240, it is worth a second glance.

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WhatG2 Esports vs BIG, IEM Katowice
WhereSpodek Arena, Poland
When10:00am, Saturday February 4th
How to watchYouTube, Twitch
OddsG2 Esports -500, BIG -333

G2 suffered heartbreak in Katowice 12 months ago, with a missed Deagle shot from NiKo ultimately costing them the title in a hardfought series. 

A year on, G2 look formidable and are tournament favourites. The squad were at their lowest when they failed to qualify for the Rio Major and after only finishing 5-6th at BLAST Premier Fall Final, they were an afterthought at the World Final. 

They lost their opening match to FaZe, but that would be their only defeat, as they dropped just one map on their way to the title. 

They also went flawless at Premier Spring Groups, including a pair of wins over NAVI, and G2 are by far the team to beat at this tournament. 

That spells trouble for an inconsistent BIG, who were brushed aside at Spring Groups by G2. The German squad caused somewhat of a surprise when qualifying for the main stage with victory over FURIA, carried across the line by the heroics of k1to. 

Individual performances will not be enough to beat G2, however, as all five of their stars are firing on all cylinders. 

Odds of 1/5 accurately represent G2’s superiority in this match and a 2-0 victory for the international roster seems inevitable. Odds of 5/6 for that outcome may appear skinny, but G2 has looked special thus far in 2023.

WhatOG vs MOUZ, IEM Katowice
WhereSpodek Arena, Poland
When1:30pm, Saturday February 4th
How to watchYouTube, Twitch
OddsOG +125, MOUZ -175

Perhaps the most competitive match of the day is saved until last, as OG and MOUZ scrap it out in an encounter that could go either way. 

It is fair to say that OG have been underestimated at recent tournaments, but that is unlikely to last much longer. 

They showed up well at both BLAST Premier World Final 2022 and Premier Spring Groups 2023, defeating Liquid twice and pushing FaZe to their limit. 

They eased their way through the play-in bracket for Katowice, defeating both Sprout and Fnatic, but MOUZ will present a very unique challenge. 

We have not seen MOUZ since the Rio Major, where they finished 3-4th, losing out to the eventual winners in the semi-final. 

They were rapid improvers last year and it is more than likely they have sharpened up further in the off season. 

The fact we have no knowledge of them in 2023, especially with Anubis now in the map pool, makes them very dangerous, despite not having an official posted this year. 

MOUZ have the edge in the win market and that is correct, given the strong form they posted to close off 2023. 

They have the element of surprise over OG, but this should still be a competitive affair that goes the distance.

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