They say there is nothing scarier than a man with nothing to lose but what happens when 10 of those men come together to form one roster? That’s the position Excel currently find themselves.
After seven games, Excel were desperate for their first win of the Summer Split – especially after throwing away leads against Fnatic and Origen. Having emerged victorious over SK Gaming, the plucky underdogs are on the board and will be looking for another strong performance in a tough game against G2 Esports.
The British-based team had a difficult start to life in the LEC Spring Split with a ninth-place finish despite showing glimpses of promise. With their headquarters in Twickenham up and running as well as the arrival of new players and a new coach, Excel were expected to make massive strides this split, reach their potential and contend for a spot in the Playoffs.
However in the opening week of Summer, travel issues involving thunderstorms and cancelled flights were perhaps an omen for the torrid weeks that awaited Excel this Summer. The team has been rooted to the bottom of the LEC standings for the entire split and had to wait until their eighth game to finally muster a win.
For a while, Excel looked dead and buried before the season had really got rolling, but heroic performances against Fnatic and Origen showed there was still life in the 10-man roster.
Though the team now faces potentially their hardest challenge yet by trying to build a win-streak with a game against MSI champions G2 as their next fixture. Excel will be hoping to catch G2 off-guard and finally earn themselves the satisfaction of a giant-killing which has narrowly avoided them so far.
An Excel-ent opportunity
Excel vs G2 is a David vs Goliath situation. It would be considered an upset if Excel were even able to stay in the game after 25 minutes.
Yet, the organisation has done it before. The first time the teams met in the Spring Split, Excel came agonisingly close to handing G2 their first loss of the season. With two Infernals and one Mountain Drake, Excel looked to be in full control of the game but Rasmus “Caps” Winther had other ideas and took over the map with amazing plays on Akali.
That match alone proved that on their day, Excel can push Europe’s best teams to the limit and that was the case once again when they faced Fnatic in the week before Rift Rivals.
Fnatic were on a high after a crucial win against G2 put them in first-place but the storied organisation nearly lost that advantage the very next day after a sloppy performance against Excel. The underdogs were able to punish Fnatic’s mistakes and racked up a huge lead. However, the same issues that have plagued Excel all year struck again as they failed to convert their lead into a win. No matter the combination of the 10-man roster, the players have repeatedly struggled to close out games.
If Excel are able to find a lead against G2 again, they will have to be ruthless. The team has nothing to lose so the players shouldn’t be afraid of pulling the trigger and gunning for their opponent’s Nexus.
Plus, you can guarantee that ADC Petter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss will be extremely motivated if he returns to the starting line-up, considering he would be facing the team that released him in favour of former mid-laner Luka “Perkz” Perković.
However, it will take a lot of work to reclaim that starting position considering the impressive performances from Jesper “Jeskla” Klarin Strömberg and Patryk “Mystiques” Piórkowski last week. The young duo were one of the main catalysts behind the team’s win against SK as their Ashe and Tahm Kench combo took over the map.
How to defeat G2 is a mystery that most teams around the world are still figuring out, but Excel’s academy team may have given some hints to the organisation’s game plan. Fight fire with fire.
During the first week of the UKLC, the duo of Hjarnan and Raymond “Kasing” Tsang dominated the regional league, helping the team climb the tower and eventually defeat last split’s champions Fnatic Rising.
Interestingly, Excel’s academy team appeared to take a page out of G2’s book, lane-swapping their players around to keep their opponents guessing. Kasing even played Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle’s signature Gragas support pick at one point. The team had also notably been working on its weaknesses as they repeatedly ended games not long after securing Baron. That was evident to see against SK, as the brave backdoor call by Son "Mickey" Young-min was the kind of ruthless decision making the team has been lacking.
Excel will be keen to gain revenge on G2 for Spring but the Brits still have a long way to go. Though with nothing to lose, the team should be able to pour all of their energy on the Rift in hopes of a shock win which could turn their season around.
G2 have no time to relax
Meanwhile, after making short work of Misfits and Schalke, G2 won’t be feeling too worried going into Week 5. Having returned to even standings with Fnatic, Excel should be a routine win and a small piece of the bigger picture in G2’s eyes. But, as we saw at Rift Rivals, if the team gets overconfident and takes their foot off the gas, disaster can strike.
For the most part, G2 treated the tournament in North America as a time to practise off-meta picks. They even managed to get their fifth and final member, Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, to complete the circle of them all playing Pyke competitively.
Still, North American teams were able to punish G2 when they weren’t fully concentrating. G2 dropped the most games out of Europe’s representatives and were the only LEC team to lose in the relay best of five final.
Though back at the LEC, G2 showed no signs of hiding their creativity as Caps alone brought out Renekton and Talon mid. If you continue to experiment, one of your tests is bound to go wrong and could explode in your face. That’s a reality that G2 will have to be wary of against Excel, even if they are the heavy favourites.
Now neck and neck with Fnatic, G2 can’t afford any more slip-ups if they want to take first-place back. A loss to Excel at this stage would be devastating and would severely dent their hopes of overtaking Fnatic.
Excel will be riding the high of their first win and after their first taste of victory in months, they’ll almost certainly be hungry for more. Fnatic top-laner Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau says the secret to defeating G2 is winning the early game, and that is certainly Excel’s strongest phase. However, G2 are easily the best mid-game team in the league, and as we saw the last time the two teams met, Excel’s early lead won’t mean anything if they can’t execute quickly and effectively.
This is a match that almost everyone expects G2 to win, but crazier things have happened in esports. Excel have nothing to lose while G2 have very little to gain – and that’s what makes this match-up so dangerous.