Fnatic vs FC Schalke 04
For our final match of the day, we have an incredibly exciting clash between the reigning champions Fnatic and the perennial challengers Schalke 04. This is, by far, the most interesting and engaging match of the day, and it is also carrying a metric ton of weight when it comes to the playoffs.
This is, in every way, shape, and form, a must win game for Fnatic, if they want to reach the playoffs. Not making Top 6 after being a World Championship finalist would definitely be an underwhelming result -- and also something that no one really thought could happen coming into 2019 seeing how they retained five sevenths of their immaculate roster.
But things went downhill, and it didn't take a lot of time before Fnatic found themselves in uncharted territory. They were constantly at the bottom of the standings and their level of play was downright abysmal day in, and day out. But things took a turn for the better last week, and that might even be an understatement.
In short -- Fnatic is back, and then some. They're still not perfect, but they don't need to be.
Perhaps the best thing about their recent resurgence is the fact that they took down two teams that are above them in the standings. That's about the best you can hope for.
They looked like vintage Fnatic, focused on skirmishing throughout the game, aggressive, proactive and highly capable. Everyone did their role, and then some. They were all in-sync and mechanically sound, and it was an absolute joy to watch. There's a special feeling you get when you see Fnatic pull off a play they were setting up way in advance. You can sense their game knowledge and synergy. They were able to completely decimate and outclass Origen, and were almost perfect in their execution. They were all on the same page, and it showed on the Rift as well.
They had the aggressive early game, but sprinkled with some late game insurance as well. Hylissang, in particular, was exceptional in his play and non-stop engages. In fact, he was the only player that actually died in their game against Origen. Regardless, it was a small price to pay for such an important game.
Their game against Vitality, on the other hand, was complete chaos. And it was an absolute must watch. Fnatic were outpaced early on, but they played better on an individual level, which allowed them to keep up the pace. Their bottom lane, in particular, was able to take control of the game, and even though they didn't push their leads as much as they could, or snowball the game as hard, they were still dominant which is the only thing that mattered. Once the mid game came around, they took control and it was a commanding show from Fnatic.
Even though Vitality went blow-for-blow, Fnatic had control and didn't manage to lose it. With their stellar team fighting and Zoe's ability to catch targets out of position, they were able to beat Vitality and end the week with two wins, pushing their overall record to five wins and seven losses.
Fnatic had a plan in both of their games and they executed to a tee. You could see that they came prepared from the way they played, and it echoed a lot of the Fnatic we all know and love. Fnatic's last week was a statement on all fronts. They're back, and they're not holding back. They were able to step up, and while it did take them a while, they're back to their dominant form.
Better late than never.
Even if we take a look at the standings, they just took down the number two team, and they looked great throughout the whole process. That doesn't exactly mean that they're the second best team after G2 Esports per se, but they're pretty darn close, and that's the only thing that matters. Their level of play justifies a playoff spot, the only question right now on everyone's mind is -- is it too late? Will they be able to right the wrongs and find redemption for their lackluster start of the season?
With Schalke, things get a fair bit more complicated.
They lost five out of their last six games, and they were only able to take down Rogue which, quite frankly, isn't such a big achievement. They're not looking good. At all. They're making individual mistakes across the board, they're out of sync, they're weak and afraid, reactive, always playing on the back foot. It's a far cry from their initial style of play. You could say that Schalke found an identity early on and were able to play through it to great result, but once other teams found their own identity, things changed irreversibly.
They lost against all teams that they're competing against for a playoff spot, and that's quite the problem. They're simply not playing good League of Legends right now, and they're not improving even in the slightest even though whole weeks have passed.
They're surely working on their issues, but if we can't see that on the Rift then it's in vain. Their games are huge fiestas by default, and you could argue that their mid laner Abbedagge is the biggest offender. He leads the league in isolated mid lane deaths at the fifteen minute mark, and that's quite a big problem for Schalke. Teams started focusing him down and he simply isn't adapting his play in time.
Regardless, they're a strong and capable opponent. While it might not be as evident now as it once was, they're a force to be reckoned with. They're creative, and they have moments of brilliance, moments when they all get on the same page and collapse in a split of a second. They could, in theory, step up in the coming weeks and turn things around, but the odds are against them. They're losing control and they know it -- the only question is whether or not they'll be able to step up over the next three weeks and actually lock down a playoff spot.
The reason as to why this match is so exciting is the sheer number of questions regarding it -- who's going to come out on top? Will Fnatic be able to maintain their stellar level of play, or will they slow down? Will Schalke get back to their winning ways, or have the plateaued?
Now, the last time these two behemoths faced didn't end up that well for Fnatic. In fact, that might even be an understatement seeing how Rekkles set his personal record when it came to deaths in a single game. But a lot has changed since then.
We're going with Fnatic on this one, but it's going to be close. Unnervingly close. We have to give them the benefit of the doubt even though they might not deserve it just yet. They know that every single game is a must win going forward, and Schalke have never been as weak as they are right now. It's prime time for Fnatic to strike back and inch closer towards their playoff goal.