‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
The finals of ESL One Cologne are set. It is Liquid vs Vitality—the number one team against the number three team. Here are the win conditions for both teams and which team will likely win Cologne.
It’s hard to compare Liquid and Vitality's tactics, as they have different styles of play. Liquid can play structured or loose, fast or slow. Vitality’s best default is their 4-1, but they’ve grown a lot in their 3-1-1’s or 2-1-2’s. They’ve also started to introduce more Na`Vi-esque defaults to emphasize Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut more, and have also incorporated fast, reactive counter plays based on timing or information.
Even their CT-sides are fairly different. Liquid love to run the double-AWP, with high pressure and low variance setups, while Vitality run a single AWP, but are more liable to do gamble stacks. One last thing to consider is both teams have some flaws in closing out high percentage rounds. Liquid can sometimes get a bit too loose when they’re in a favorable situation and Vitality have the propensity to lose to ecos or forces. That makes the teams even, all things considered.
As for team play, both squads seem equal. Base off form alone, Vitality has a slight advantage, but that’s only because Astralis forced more out of them whereas Liquid ran over Na`Vi.
As for skill, Liquid are the favorites. They have the most skill in the world and almost all of their players have higher potential ceilings than their counterparts on Vitality. The exception is ZywOo, who can be the best player on the server.
The finals are a best-of-5, so the map veto won’t be as important as a bo3. In addition, both teams share a similar map pool, as they play all of the maps except Vertigo.
Since this is a direct match up in a bo5, here's an estimate of where their map strength is stacked against each other.
Overpass: TL > Vit
Dust2: Vit > TL
Inferno: TL > Vit
Nuke: Vit > TL
Both Liquid and Vitality are great on Overpass, but earns the advantage Liquid because Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski is the most impactful CT-side Overpass player right now.
Dust2 is another map where both are great on it, but Vitality edge their opponents out. While Liquid have a great CT-side and a double-AWP setup, Vitality have introduced a lot of pace, weird timings, and reads to their T-side that should make them hard to stop.
Inferno is a clear Liquid victory. Vitality’s performance on Inferno is inconsistent, as they can sometimes run out of ideas and rely on Dan “apEX” Madesclaire or ZywOo just running down B and getting opening kills.
Vitality is favored on Nuke because they have a bit more depth on the T-side. They can run explosive hits, 4-1s, mid-rounds, and can also opt for a slow, Na`Vi-esque default where they give ZywOo the space to find a pick. Liquid don’t have a dedicated AWPer that allow them to run that style. Still, it’s possible that Liquid steal the molly/smoke combo that MVP uses on their T-side, which denies the CTs information on whether someone went down vent or not. Time will tell.
As for the last three maps, they can all go either way. Vertigo can go either way, neither side plays Train, and Mirage is a raw 50/50. The meta has been figured out and there are no obvious skill discrepancy that either side can take advantage of.
Overall, Liquid is the better team, but Vitality has all of the tools they need to beat Liquid in a bo5.
Liquid are the best team in the world and are favored in terms of raw skill. All Liquid should do is play their own game and outpace Vitality’s individual skill. They can also swap their roles and play some loose CS to throw Vitality off.
As for Vitality, ZywOo needs to be the best on the server. Liquid’s team play is their most variable part of their team, so it will be hard for Vitality to play a better team game than Liquid. One final thing to look out for is Nathan “NBK” Schmitt’s CT-side calling. At the CS_Summit 4, there were a slew of rounds where he gambled four toward mid/ling three times in a row and countered Liquid three times in a row. If he can do that at a critical juncture, that could swing the one extra map they need.
Overall this should be an incredibly close series, regardless of ending score. As that’s the case, here's hoping for a five game series. Liquid 3-2.