One of the most iconic regional splits in the world of League of Legends - the LCK Spring - is back and in full swing.
Last year's World Championship winners DRX hailed from the LCK, as did two of the other three semi-finalists, and this year's Worlds will be taking place in South Korea.
There is therefore more incentive than ever before for South Korea's best to have good seasons and already it is looking like an intriguing split.
T1 took the initiative in week one and have carried that form into the second week, leading the way with a 4-0 record, while Dplus KIA have also started strongly.
Week two of the action concludes on Sunday with Hanwha Life Esports firstly taking on Gen.G Esports before Kwangdong Freecs clash with defending world champions DRX.
At the end of the LCK Spring 2023 playoffs, which will run into March, the top two teams will qualify automatically for the Mid-Season Invitational 2023, which features the best League of Legends teams from across the globe.
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|What||Hanwha Life Esports v Gen.G|
|When||06:00, Sunday 29th January|
|How to watch||LCK Twitch channel|
|Odds||Hanwha Life Esports 11/8, Gen.G 8/15|
Hanwha Life Esports finished bottom of the pile in both the LCK Spring and the LCK Summer last year, winning a combined five matches across the two splits, but expectations were raised coming into the new campaign.
They were busy in the off-season, enhancing their roster with a number of former World Championship winners, including ex-DRX talents Kim "ZEKA" Geon-woo, who is a mid laner, and Hwang "Kingen" Seong-hoon, who operates as a top laner.
But it is clearly taking time to gel and already Hanwha Life Esports have come under fire with many fans labelling them a "Zeka one-man team".
Following their recent defeat to Liiv SANDBOX, Hanwha Life Esports head coach Choi "DanDy" In-kyu disputed those claims, claiming instead it was partly his fault and down to issues with draft picks which led to the loss.
Following that loss to Liiv SANDBOX at the end of week one, Hanwha then lost their opening match of week two by a 2-0 scoreline against KT Rolster, leaving them with a 1-2 record after three matches.
And they are unlikely to turn things around on Sunday when they face a Gen.G side who dominated the LCK scene with T1 last year.
Gen.G lost their LCK Spring 2023 opener against T1 in week one but have since beaten defending world champions DRX and BRION by 2-0 scorelines to remain in the top half of the standings.
They have been going well, whereas Hanwha Life Esports are still a team in transition and a bet on Gen.G to win this one 2-0 at 13/8 could be the way to go.
|What||Kwangdong Freecs v DRX|
|When||08:30, Sunday 29th January|
|How to watch||LCK Twitch channel|
|Odds||Kwangdong Freecs 12/5, DRX 3/10|
For casual observers of League of Legends, it may strike them as odd to see DRX, the team who defied expectations to win last year's World Championship, already on the back foot in the LCK Spring 2023 with three defeats from three matches.
But that is the reality DRX find themselves in and it should not come as a massive surprise given the team's roster changes during the off-season.
The team's roster was pulled apart following that Worlds triumph with the likes of "Zeka" and "Kingen" moving on to pastures new and four of their six players this season only signed up in December 2022.
Defeats to Dplus KIA, formerly DWG KIA and DAMWON Gaming, and Gen.G Esports in week one of this split were forgivable, but defeat to one of the weakest teams in the division - NS RedForce - last time out should be cause for concern.
They are 3/10 favourites to get back on track with a win over Kwangdong Freecs but have not shown any indication why that will be the case and over 2.5 maps could instead be the best bet at 11/10 when these two strugglers lock horns in week two.