Fnatic, G2 and Schalke 04 will battle in Athens to be named the LEC Summer Split champion – but this weekend is about more than just domestic glory.
The first chapter of the LEC’s thrilling story is nearing its end with the promise of an exciting climax and potential for plot twists. This year has seen 20 weeks of regular season play come and go, but now there are just three teams left standing with hopes of lifting the trophy in Athens, Greece.
Fnatic, G2 Esports and Schalke 04 have all championship-calibre teams – but only one will return home satisfied. The hundreds of hours of scrims and solo-queue this season, the years of hard work before that, every minute of play has led to this moment.
G2 Esports: Weight of the world
It’s already been an astonishing year for the roster of G2. They became the first-ever MSI champions to hail from Europe and broke multiple game-time records in the process. G2 is undoubtedly one of the best teams in the world.
There has perhaps never been a better chance of a European team winning a World Championship and consequently, there has never been so much pressure on LEC teams internationally either. Success comes with high expectations.
G2 are going to Worlds with a massive target on their backs: they are the team everyone wants to beat. Even the greatest player of all time Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok took the time after SKT’s LCK triumph last week to say he is seeking revenge against the European team who defeated them in a thrilling five-game series at MSI earlier this year.
Reaching the semi-finals of Worlds is no longer good enough, even reaching the final like Fnatic did last year will not satisfy the expectations of most LEC fans and certainly wouldn’t meet G2’s own high standards. We’ve seen that G2 can defeat the best teams on the planet, but replicating that success on the biggest possible stage with the added pressure of a home crowd is a different story.
But before they can even worry about that, G2 will have to hold their nerve Athens with a tough best-of-five against the winner of Schalke vs Fnatic. Last weekend was concerning or encouraging for G2 fans depending on your outlook. On the one hand, Fnatic quite convincingly handled them down in the first two games with dominant early game displays but G2 showed great mental fortitude to complete a reverse sweep.
G2 have struggled this season to come back from early deficits. As the favourites for the LEC crown, a loss this weekend in the Greek capital could completely derail the talented team’s confidence ahead of their biggest challenge yet.
It’s frightening to think, and difficult to even comprehend, but G2 are in no way the finished product. This roster will go down in history as one of the greatest Europe has ever produced but it is down to them whether their story is remembered as a fairy tale or a tragedy.
Fnatic: Protecting a legacy
A win against Schalke on Saturday will secure Fnatic yet another Worlds appearance under their belt. If successful, the organisation will have attended seven out of the nine League of Legends World Championships so far.
This is familiar territory for Fnatic who are the most decorated team in European history with seven EU LCS trophies to their name. However, this season hasn’t been as enjoyable for the storied organisation.
Fnatic had an incredible 2018, securing back-to-back European titles before reaching the World Championships final – the first European team to accomplish the feat since themselves when they won the very first version of the tournament back in 2011.
Coming off such a phenomenal season into a new era in the LEC, it felt like the perfect opportunity to continue their legacy. Yet, the roster floundered and started the season in horrendous form, though they did scrape their way into the Spring Playoffs only to finish third.
Now Fnatic find themselves in the semi-finals once again, but this time off the back of a much stronger season. Fnatic have been chasing G2 all year and pushed them all the way last weekend. While most will see the result and focus on G2’s reverse sweep, the reality is Fnatic were one baron fight away from defeating the MSI champions 3-0.
The fashion Fnatic lost the series had to hurt the players eventually yet the most recent Mic Check revealed that Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau and Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov were attempting to keep spirits high. “We’ll get them next time” were the first words out of the support’s mouth – only time will tell if he was right.
Schalke 04: Overcoming the past
While Fnatic and G2 will be the favourites, either team would be foolish to underestimate Schalke. The Royal Blues have shown great potential throughout the year, even in previous years, and are due a run of good form.
In the Spring Split, Schalke were title contenders, and for a long time looked likely to finish second behind G2. However, a bad spell spiralled out of control and resulted in the team crashing out of playoff contention altogether.
The German football club didn’t make the same mistake this Summer and appear to have stepped up another level following the signing of Korean jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-yun. The former G2 man currently has the highest win-percentage in European history with 73.3 percent and will be hoping he can reach the final and extend his record ahead of former teammate Luka “Perkz” Perković.
Schalke are the only team in Europe who have competed in the league for more than one season but have never attended a World Championship, though the organisation and recently voted second-best ADC in Europe, Elias “Upset” Lipp, came agonisingly close last year after finishing runners-up in the last Summer Playoffs.
On the back of an impressive win against Rogue, which included an unlikely penta kill from Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu, Schalke are heading to Athens full of confidence knowing any of the five players can pull off a carry performance to secure a shock win. That’s exactly what they’ll have to do if they want to finally step onto the Worlds stage.