The latest Intel Extreme Masters event in the Counter Strike: Global Offensive calendar is about to get underway in Cologne with teams set to battle it out for a share of the $1million prize pool.
Tuesday marks the beginning of the play-in stage before the start of the group stage which will feature 16 teams with six sides set to make the playoffs.
Red-hot Natus Vincere are the title holders, having beaten G2 Esports in the final of last year's tournament.
Intel Extreme Masters Cologne 2022, Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Cologne, Germany (Hyatt Regency Cologne for group stage & LANXESS arena for playoffs)
Tuesday 5th July 2022 to Sunday 17th July 2022
|How to watch|
ESL CS:GO Twitch channel and bet365's Sports Live Streaming platform
To win outright - Natus Vincere +175, FaZe Clan +275, Cloud9 +400, ENCE +450, Heroic +800
Natus Vincere went the distance at the IEM Cologne last year, storming through Group B before defeating both FaZe Clan and G2 Esports in the playoffs without dropping a map.
And they should be in good spirits as they begin their title defence, having just won the BLAST Premier Spring Finals.
That title triumph was all the more impressive given they had a significant roster change before the tournament with Viktor "sdy" Orudzhev replacing Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhaylov in the team and Denis "electroNic" Sharipov taking up the role of in-game leader.
That did not unsettle NAVI, who overpowered Team Vitality in the final of the BLAST Premier Spring Finals, and their star man Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev picked up a record-breaking 20th Most Valuable Player award in the process. He is +175 to take home the HLTV MVP at the IEM Cologne.
Given how much they like this event and their current run of form, it is hard to see past Natus Vincere winning this year's IEM Cologne and at +175, they are a decent selection. They also offer some value at -225 to make the final.
FaZe Clan's in-game leader and entry fragger Finn "karrigan" Andersen insists his side need to win the IEM Cologne 2022 or it will have to be considered a "very bad season" for the team.
FaZe were seriously unimpressive in their last major event - the BLAST Premier Spring Finals - having lost 2-0 to Natus Vincere in the quarter-finals.
They lost 16-6 on Dust II and 16-1 on Inferno in that contest and they need to pick themselves up ahead of Cologne.
They also crashed out at the quarter-finals stage of the IEM Dallas and they have recently looked a shadow of the team who reigned supreme at the IEM Katowice earlier in the year.
At +275, they are considered Natus Vincere's closest challengers but should be swerved in the outright market.
Fresh from winning the A-Tier event the Pinnacle Cup, Heroic are in great form right now and, despite needing to go through the tournament's play-in stage, are considered one of the favourites to win the IEM Cologne at +800.
They start the play-in stage against German outfit Sprout and are -500 to come through that match, having won each of their last five games.
Currently ninth in the HLTV world rankings, they picked up some decent wins over Team Vitality and G2 Esports at the PGL Major Antwerp and should not be ruled out of causing a stir in Cologne.
Only FaZe Clan, Natus Vincere and ENCE are above Cloud9 in the HLTV world rankings and they look right at +400 to win the IEM Cologne.
They were not involved in the BLAST Premier Spring finals but rose to the top at the IEM Dallas last month, despite having been knocked down to the lower bracket in the event's group phase.
They responded with wins over FaZe Clan, BIG (Berlin International Gaming) and ENCE in the playoffs to take the title and that should give them some confidence going into the next IEM event.
Cloud9 won what was the first big LAN event in the USA in three years and rifler Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov played a key role in the title triumph.
He finished with the best tournament rating of 1.32 at the event and there are worse bets than backing "Ax1Le" to pick up the IEM Cologne HLTV MVP award at +800 if punters fancy Cloud9 to go far in Germany.