Group D's opening matches at ESL Pro League Season 17 were filled with excitement and shocking upsets - with some of the strongest teams in the world unexpectedly finding themselves competing in the Mid Bracket later today.
ESL Pro League Season 17: Mid Bracket Round 1 schedule and betting odds
The final matches of the Group Stage have put Group D in the spotlight, with eight teams duking it out from March 15 to 19. Just four teams will survive to make it to the Playoffs, which are due to begin on March 21, and will see the surviving teams from all four groups fighting it out for their share of the $850,000 prize pool.
The Mid Bracket action will begin at 18:30 GMT with a pair of matches - one of which will see Astralis going up against Natus Vincere (NAVI).
Astralis (2.70) vs NAVI (1.40)
Astralis have found themselves in the Mid Bracket following their bruising 2-0 loss to Team Spirit in the Upper Bracket Quarterfinals. With scores of 16-4 on Ancient and 16-11 on Mirage, Astralis struggled to find their footing in their Season 17 debut match, in a troubling sign for their future efforts this week. Astralis were once a dominant force in the CS:GO scene, but their performance against Team Spirit yesterday shows they have quite a bit of ground to make up if they ever hope to make it back to their glory days.
NAVI have similarly had a tough start to ESL Pro League Season 17 - having just suffered a shocking upset at the hands of forZe. It was a closely-fought match, with NAVI opening up the series with a 16-11 win on Overpass. But unfortunately for the Ukrainian superstars, forZe quickly turned things around with 16-14 and 16-11 wins on Ancient and Inferno, respectively. NAVI had been heavily favoured to win, and their shocking loss is bound to be a real blow to their confidence as they get ready to fight it out in the Mid Bracket.
The odds are in NAVI's favour here, at 1.40 vs Astralis' 2.70.
Our second Mid Bracket match, also taking place at 18:30 GMT, will see Team Liquid fighting it out with ATK.
Team Liquid (1.10) vs ATK (5.80)
NAVI aren't the only team to have suffered a shocking upset loss, with Team Liquid having been knocked down to the Mid Bracket following their 2-0 loss to Rare Atom in the Upper Bracket Quarterfinals. Expectations were running pretty low for Rare Atom coming into their Season 17 debut match, who have limited experience at tournaments of this level. Team Liquid meanwhile were fresh from their semi-final finish at IEM Katowice, and were expected to breeze to victory - and onto the Upper Bracket Semifinals. Liquid finished ESL Pro League Season 16 in second place, and so they're likely hoping that their loss to Rare Atom was a fluke rather than a worrying sign for their Season 17 run.
ATK meanwhile were already facing tough odds in their Upper Bracket Quarterfinal match against ENCE. And while their loss sent them down to the Mid Bracket, they at least put up a respectable performance - forcing the game into the third map for a final score of 2-1. It was a closely-fought affair, with ENCE opening the series with a promising 16-6 win on Anubis, but ATK were able to push back with a tight 16-14 win on Vertigo. Despite the team's best efforts, ATK ultimately faced a 9-16 loss on Ancient, with ENCE ultimately emerging victorious. It was a strong showing in the face of some daunting odds - but does ATK have what it takes to face off NAVI?
NAVI are strongly favoured to win here, with odds of 1.10 vs ATK's 5.80.
There are just a few days to go before the Group Stage at ESL Pro League Season 17 comes to an end. Which teams will you be supporting? Whoever you choose to back, make sure you follow along with each match via our handy CS:GO match schedule. And while you're at it, why not sign up to claim your free 100% bonus?