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Esports: CS:GO ESL Pro League Friday matches

Season 17 of the ESL Pro League has certainly not disappointed so far and the tournament's playoffs are nearly upon us.

The S-Tier event is one of the most significant events on the Counter Strike: Global Offensive calendar and features an $850,000 prize pool with the winners also set to qualify for the IEM Cologne and the BLAST Premier World Final 2023.

It began with 32 teams competing in Malta in four triple-elimination groups, each featuring eight teams, with only four advancing from each section to the playoffs.

Groups A, B and C have already been played out, so we know the first 12 teams set for the playoffs, but four more are set to join them from Group D which has already thrown up plenty of surprises.

ENCE and forZe have already secured playoff berths and will compete in the Group D final on Sunday, while the others continue to slog it out for the remaining two berths on Friday and Saturday.

Here is a look at the two matches taking place in the mid-bracket on Friday.

Liquid can come through tough mid-bracket tie

WhatTeam Spirit vs Team Liquid
WhereMalta
When15.00, Friday 17th March
How to watchESL Youtube & Twitch channels
OddsTeam Spirit 11/10, Team Liquid 4/6

For many it may come as a surprise to see Team Spirit and Team Liquid battling it out in the mid-bracket in Group D with both sides in the top 15 of the HLTV world CS:GO rankings and largely expected to be among the frontrunners in the upper bracket.

Instead, Team Liquid, third in the world, crashed out of the upper-bracket immediately with a 2-0 defeat to Rare Atom in their quarter-final, while Team Spirit at least made it to the upper-bracket semi-finals before sustaining a surprise 2-1 defeat to forZe.

Following their loss, Team Liquid responded with a comfortable 2-0 win over ATK and should have stabilised ahead of their mid-bracket semi-final with Team Spirit.

The prices suggest it is a pretty evenly poised match-up, but Team Liquid look a decent bet nonetheless with their added tournament experience likely to see them over the line.

The defeat to Rare Atom seems like an anomalous one given they did not put a foot wrong in their subsequent match with ATK and it is worth noting Team Liquid have had a good few months, making the top four at the BLAST Premier Fall Final in November and finishing runners-up at the BLAST Premier World Final in December.

Last month in the IEM Katowice they managed to make the 3rd-4th positions, having taken down Team Spirit 2-1 on their way to the semi-finals, so a bet on them to win this encounter at 4/6 could be the way to go.

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Natus Vincere should ease past Rare Atom

WhatRare Atom vs Natus Vincere
WhereMalta
When18.30, Friday 17th March
How to watchESL Youtube & Twitch channels
OddsRare Atom 6/1, Natus Vincere 1/12

Rare Atom pulled off one of the shocks of season 17 in the ESL Pro League earlier this week when beating Team Liquid 2-0 in the upper-bracket quarter-finals, but it was easy to see why they are 62nd in the world following their upper-bracket semi-final defeat to ENCE.

Rare Atom lost that match 2-0 and looked particularly hopeless on the first map Overpass, losing 16-3, suggesting their opening victory may have been no more than a blip from Team Liquid.

They now face the daunting prospect of Natus Vincere, one of the strongest teams on the 2022 CS:GO circuit, in the semi-finals of the mid-bracket.

NAVI also suffered a surprise loss in the upper-bracket, losing 2-1 to forZe, meaning they would have to battle their way through the mid-bracket for a qualification berth.

Fortunately for their fans, they did not falter a second time and managed to overcome Astralis 2-1 in the first round of the mid-bracket, although a 16-3 defeat on Overpass in that game could be a little concerning.

Ultimately NAVI still look a fair bit off where they were at last season and will likely get found out by the bigger hitters should they make the playoffs, but they are 57 places better off than Rare Atom in the world rankings and fresh from making the 3rd-4th spots at the IEM Katowice.

Back them to win this one 2-0 at 1/2 or, for better value, back them at -12.5 on the rounds handicap at 10/11.

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