The Counter Strike: Global Offensive IEM Rio Major 2022 is just around the corner, with the road to the $1,250,000 November tournament kicking off on Tuesday.
RMR A will see 16 European teams battling it out for qualification to the major, with the top four sides gaining slots in the main event. Those who place fifth to eighth will find themselves in the Challengers Stage of the major.
It will be heartbreak for the bottom eight, who will miss out on a chance in CS:GO history, but with the likes of FaZe, Astralis, G2, Cloud9, Ninjas In Pyjamas, Spirit and fnatic all competing, some big guns are going to miss out on major qualification.
The opening matches in RMR A will be best-of-one format, which can throw up some strange results, and nothing is guaranteed for any of the sides, including those in the world's top ten.
The RMR kicks off with a very difficult match to call, as both sides arrive in red-hot form. Bad News Eagles have won their last eight series while Eternal Fire, who almost qualified for ESL Pro League playoffs, have won their last five.
Three of those five wins came over Liquid, MOUZ and Movistar Riders, which is the best form on offer, and Eternal Fire should head into this match as favourites.
forZe have built up some momentum heading into the RMR, winning their last four series, including a 2-1 victory over OG to win the CCT Central Europe Series 2.
Sprout won when these sides met last in July, but their form has been patchier of late and, despite this being another difficult series to call, forZe would be very slight favourites.
ECSTATIC upset ENCE at the Nordic Masters Fall last month, but they will need to pull off an upset of meteoric proportions to defeat G2.
G2 are fresh off a deep run at ESL Pro League Season 16 and, although their best-of-one record is shakier than most top-tier sides, they should have no real problems dispatching their Danish opposition.
Cloud9 represents the shortest odds in the first round of matches and it is not hard to see why. The eighth best team in the world take on B8 (#66), a Ukrainian side that has struggled against lower-tier opponents of late.
Cloud9, semi-finalists at ESL Pro League Season 16, should win this handsomely.
The reigning major champions FaZe had a shaky showing at ESL Pro League Season 16 but, despite that, it is difficult to see a way that GamerLegion win this best-of-one.
That being said, the acoR-led roster have posted some decent best-of-one showings of late, including a 13-16 defeat to Eternal Fire. FaZe should win this, but GamerLegion could be in range of the handicap.
A fascinating domestic encounter as Spirit, who exited ESL Pro League Season 16 with a decent group stage showing, take on 1WIN, who are looking to break into the world's top 30.
Spirit have not played many official matches in recent months, which could be a small concern, as 1WIN do have the firepower to make this very interesting. As the odds suggest, this is hard to call, but Spirit have the edge on paper.
We are treated to a barn-burner in the opening round of matches, as Scandinavian rivals Ninjas In Pyjamas and Astralis clash.
Ninjas In Pyjamas have been absent for nearly a month, last seen defeating Natus Vincere 2-1 to cap off a fairly miserable ESL Pro League group stage exit. The same can be said for Astralis, who went 2-3 in their group, losing to the likes of Complexity and HEET.
Neither of these sides arrive at the RMR in particularly strong form but Astralis will be without star rifler k0nfig, who broke his leg in Malta last month. MistR will take his place but without him, this is going to be tough for Astralis.
The odds, which have these sides very closely matched despite k0nfig's absence, reflect the lack of confidence in the Ninjas In Pyjamas camp.
Aurora come into this game on the back of two disappointing losses to Into the Breach and PALOMA, form that would not be enough to defeat fnatic.
fnatic have all the advantages on paper, including recent form and firepower, but Aurora have the talent to make this very interesting and should not be dismissed.