The Intel Extreme Masters Katowice playoffs are set to begin with the best-of-three quarterfinals on Friday. Only two teams will advance to the semifinals where Natus Vincere and Heroic await their opponents. The first quarterfinal will see Virtus.pro squaring off against G2 Esports.
Both Virtus.pro and G2 have had strong runs at Katowice thus far, each only losing one series in the group stage to net themselves their quarterfinals berth. The match between Virtus.pro and G2 will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET on Feb. 25.
IEM Katowice group stage
For G2, their run at IEM Katowice began with a surprising loss to a Fnatic roster that has, following their later elimination from the event, begun reshuffling. Since that early loss, G2 put together a compelling lower bracket run that showed the team had a lot of grit. They took out Team Liquid, Furia Esports and Astralis. Their star player, Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, has been going absolutely nuclear with a 1.50 rating at the event so far.
Virtus.pro had an inverse, upper bracket run to reach the quarterfinals. They looked dominant until being handed a crushing defeat by Heroic in their last map of the group stage. Prior to that match, the whole teams was firing on all cylinders, with strong contributions from all five players.
IEM Katowice quarterfinals
Both teams will have the opportunity to play in the Spodek arena in front of a live crowd. In-arena LAN events have been few and far between in recent years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, for newcomers like G2’s Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov, it will be a novel experience.
In the IEM Katowice quarterfinalist press conference, m0NESY said his main goal was learning from every match and from the tournament as a whole. The young AWPing prodigy has been under a lot of pressure, saying that he’s felt the weight of public scrutiny. Still, he’s excited for the chance to play on LAN.
“I’m not scared to play against strong opponents,” he said. “It will be tough maybe, but I’m not scared to play against these enemies.”
He also gave a nod to his former organization Na’Vi and his friend Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi, who G2 could meet in the semifinals if they can get past Virtus.pro.
“I want to play versus [Na’Vi],” m0NESY said. “I want to play versus b1t.”
G2 are the newer roster and they relied a lot on individual prowess — especially NiKo’s impressive form — to reach quarterfinals. The team’s new in-game-leader Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen said that he and coach Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam still have a lot of small things that they can implement into the team’s game plan.
“It’s not like we go on the server, just say ‘NiKo go kill,’ and we’re AFK not doing anything,” Aleksib said.
Aleksib also said that he believes Virtus.pro are a good opponent to have. Unlike most of the teams at IEM Katowice, Virtus.pro did not make any roster changes at the end of 2021 or the start of 2022. G2 have plenty of footage of Virtus.pro to work off of, while Virtus.pro can’t say the same.
“There’s not much preparation we can do for the new G2 line up,” Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis said. “With m0NESY and Aleksib, it’s completely changed their structure.”
YEKINDAR similarly acknowledged the high level of play out of G2’s individuals — particularly m0NESY and, of course, NiKo.
“We’re not going to pray for NiKo to have a bad day,” YEKINDAR said. “We’re going to focus on ourselves and try to make a bad day for him.”