Vitality v NiP – ESL One: Road to Rio – Europe Betting Preview and Prediction
While I don’t expect the new Ninjas in Pyjamas project will be moving any mountains anytime soon, I have to admit this team holds a lot of promise with their young core of players and a great head coach, who can mould this roster into a team capable of competing for a top-10 spot in the global rankings. One thing to note here is that NiP’s coach, Threat, was known as a coach IGL back in the day when coaches were allowed to speak during the match and considering this match is played online, he will probably be able to have some input during the match. Although that is not allowed, it’s still a grey zone, as you can’t really force this rule onto all teams, seeing how teams are not using any face cams nor are there any admins looking over each team.
Looking back, Ninjas started their EPL campaign with a bang. They won their opening match (2-0) against Astralis (priced around 6.10 heading into the match), followed by 2-0 wins over Team Spirit and Godsent, which were solid results, but nowhere as good as their win over the Danes, considering they were coming into both matches as favourites, priced 1.49 and 1.39 respectively. NiP headed into their next two matches priced as favourites, but lost both of them; 0-2 against Team Vitality (1.64) and 1-2 against ENCE (priced around 1.40). NiP played their final online match against Fnatic and got reverse swept 1-2, which was shocking, seeing now NiP started the series strong and secured a commanding 16-2 win on Overpass, but fell completely flat in the next two maps: 16-5 on Mirage and 16-5 on Train.
Vitality and NiP met twice since the turn of the year. Once on LAN at the IEM Katowice 2020, where Vitality secured a clean sweep with 16-12 on Vertigo and 16-10 on Nuke. In the said match Alex ‘ALEX’ McMeekin (their former player and IGL) took the MVP award with the 51 frags and a high 1.43 rating, which is quite unusual for an IGL, who usually don’t get such high marks. Their second meeting was played online and it came at ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe and once again it was Vitality who came out on top, 16-14 on Vertigo and 16-9 on Nuke.
Vitality are taking the path most successful French teams have gone in the past – destroying the team from inside with some “bullshit” decisions that benefit nobody except the enemy. To elaborate – they kicked the French kingmaker NBK and brought in Shox which was already a move that I can’t wrap my mind around, seeing how they basically replaced NBKs EGO with the diva personality of Shox and as it looks like they even lost a bit of firepower (which was, ironically enough, an excuse for kicking NBK and bringing in shox…), as shox failed to look as good as he was in the past. Vitality’s IGL Alex ‘ALEX’ McMeekin left the ship after some time and a young player Kévin ‘misutaaa’ Rabier was brought in as his replacement, while Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire took over the IGL role. Again, I’m not sure why this was a good idea, but on the bright side at least it was not shox who took over.
Vitality finished their EPL campaign seventh-ninth, which is a little low for the former number two in the world, but they came into the tournament with a new IGL and a new player so perhaps they deserve some slack. At the tournament, Vitality picked up a couple of wins, including 2-0 against Godsent, 2-1 against ENCE and 2-0 against NIP, to which they added 1-2 loss against Spirit, followed by two 1-2 defeats against Astralis and against OG, NBKs new team! What probably hurt even more than a defeat against NBK was the fact the NBK was the top fragger, while shox, who was brought into the teams his replacement (who should have added more firepower), finished the match as Vitality’s worst player with 0.99 HLTV rating. Irony at its finest.
Out of all the day one matches at this tournament, this one feels like the biggest coin-toss. The recent history favours Vitality, but as it stands here, value is on NIP. The Swedes should also have better morale heading into this bout, as they, unlike Vitality, don’t have any internal struggles.
Prediction: NiP to win 2-1
Betting Pick: Nip to win, 2.17 at Pinnacle
In-play suggestion: if Vitality loses the first map with less than 10 rounds, bet on them to win the next map