SK Gaming vs FC Schalke 04
For our first LEC playoff Best of 5, we have an absolute barnburner: Schalke 04 vs. SK Gaming. Now, one quick glance at this kind of set-up doesn’t really get anyone’s blood pumping, and with good reason. These two organizations accomplished very little throughout their LEC tenures, so it stands to reason that fans won’t exactly be swarming in to watch this quasi-spectacle unfold.
But this time around, things are quite different. In fact, this could end up being one of the most entertaining match-ups in the playoffs and you should, by all means, tune in. Neither team is entering this photo finish as an underdog and that’s strange. We’re all used to seeing the likes of G2 Esports and Fnatic reign supreme, but things have changed quite a bit in 2020 — and that’s great for everyone except those who are looking to earn a bit of money through betting on competitive League. In short, matches are incredibly hard to predict and all teams are separated by the slimmest of margins. Obviously, Best of 5s are a different beast entirely but the point still stands.
Both SK Gaming and Schalke 04 have taken games off of teams many deemed far superior. Schalke, in particular, is entering the playoffs on a seven-game win streak, with wins over Fnatic, G2 Esports, and MAD Lions. Let that one sink in. They are, without a doubt, the most feared team in the playoffs right now, and there’s a very good reason why that’s the case. The fashion in which they’ve outclassed their opponents throughout the second half of the Summer Split was nothing short of awe-inspiring. They didn’t look like a bottom-tier dweller but rather like a world-class competitive behemoth. They were in sync, constantly on the lookout for an opening, and they stood out for their ability to play precise, commanding, and surprisingly clean League of Legends, regardless of whom they were up against.
That’s not the slew of virtues that come to mind when someone says “Schalke 04”, but here they are, locked in the playoffs after starting the season off with an abysmal 1W-10L record. The lunacy! Everyone’s scared of them primarily because they’re playing far better than one would expect. Heck, they’re playing far better than it makes sense! Gilius, in particular, has been their one shining star with exceptional objective control, picture-perfect smites, and incredible pathing from start to finish. As a team, they’ve been doing wonders and even though they’re not that impressive on paper, they’re more than capable of throwing down with the best teams the LEC has to offer. Their mid laner Abbedagge — the same guy who set the record for most isolated deaths in the mid lane — is now being called the “Fakerdagge.” That’s all you need to hear to understand just how good he’s been, and the fact that he’s finding so much success in a region that’s historically known for its mid lane talent pool is all the more impressive.
Schalke are just bafflingly good in every way, shape, and form.
But SK Gaming aren’t a pushover either. In fact, on the contrary. They also hold wins over the vast majority of the LEC elite, they’re sitting comfortably with nine wins on the board and deserve a lot more hype and respect than most fans are willing to give them. There’s just no well-known player on their line-up other than, say, Trick, who’s quite a relic these days given that he reigned with G2 many years ago. There’s no hypercarry, no individual that stands out in any particular way, and no fan-favorite to push this team into the mainstream.
But by the looks of it, SK Gaming don’t mind. In fact, they like it this way — a more democratic environment without any superstars to speak of. Even though they lack in name value, they more than make up in exquisite League of Legends. They’re all playing exceptionally well (even better than you’d expected) and have the macro to compete at the highest of levels. ZaZee and Crownshot have quickly solidified their spots as Top 5 performers in their own respective roles, and watching them compete on their comfort picks (Azir and Ezreal, primarily) has been nothing short of mesmerizing. SK are reveling in their inherent underdog status, and with a seasoned head coach to guide them, they’ve blossomed beyond belief.
This is where things get insanely hard prediction-wise. This is the first time we’ll see these two line-ups compete in a Best of 5. What they were good at in a single round robin is no longer as viable this time around — this is where preparation, mental fortitude, and grit matter most. They need to be able to adapt, to have the champion pools for any situation, and the resilience to fight from behind should the need arise. And, frankly, with so many inexperienced players aboard, it’s hard to predict whether they have what it takes. Schalke 04 have more momentum, that’s quite obvious, but their miracle run still feels like a one-off thing, like something that won’t continue because, inherently, it doesn’t make any sense. On the other hand, SK Gaming are not particularly consistent and they can be easily exploited given the right approach and preparation. Their one true carry is Crownshot but if they target him the pick and ban phase and send Gilius down to the bottom lane, he shouldn’t be able to do much.
Schalke are stronger as a five-man unit, with a much more seasoned and experienced top laner in Odoamne. They have more weapons to work with and have gotten to this point as a result of their strength and ability to adapt in spite of the ever-changing meta. They’re more versatile and more experienced, although the gap isn’t as large as this sentence might lead you to believe. In the end, we’re siding with Schalke on this one, but it’s truly up in the air. Regardless of the final outcome, expect a hectic, skirmish-heavy series that's bound to entertain!
|FC Schalke 04||1.42||2||Win|