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Rift Rivals: Fighting for European pride

With Rift Rivals upon us, we could see yet another trophy come to Europe this year – here’s the lowdown on what to expect.

What’s Summer without a vacation? Some of the LEC’s top teams have flown out to Los Angeles but there won’t be much time for relaxing. G2, Fnatic and Origen will face off with Team Liquid, Team SoloMid and Cloud9 in a battle for regional pride at Rift Rivals.

This will be the third edition of the tournament as the feud between Europe and North America grows stronger. Both regions hold one Rift Rival triumph each making this year’s an interesting decider – and Europe are no doubt confident in taking down North America once again.

You only have to look at when the two regions have met in recent tournaments, and it was Europe came out on top. Set your memory to just a couple of months ago when G2 defeated Team Liquid in the fastest Mid-Season Invitational final ever.

G2, Fnatic and Origen have all made solid starts to the Summer Split and this tournament provides them with a chance to experience playing against different styles, however, some players are also walking in with personal vendettas. 

Origen: A grand return

Origen Mithy

Mithy will be returning to North America with a vengeance

This is the first time that Origen has attended Rift Rivals, and it will be the first international League of Legends tournament for the organisation since 2015, when founder Enrique “xPeke” Martinez lead the team to the Worlds semi-finals.

But if you think that was a long wait, spare a thought for Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm. The Norwegian is considered by many as one of Europe’s best mid-laners, yet the last official international event he attended was Worlds 2013. Known for a champion pool bigger than the Atlantic he just crossed, Nukeduck’s flexibility will likely cause Team Liquid, Cloud9 and TSM huge problems.

And the LCS teams will also have to look out for Patrik “Patrik” Jiru, as this is his first time competing internationally. The 19-year-old has been in fine form this season as shown by his phenomenal performance against G2 a couple of weeks ago where he went blow-for-blow with Luka “Perkz” Perković. We're beginning to see the best of the Czech ADC and this tournament provides him with the perfect opportunity to prove himself on a bigger stage.

While everyone wants to prove they’re the best, a couple of Origen’s players have the extra motivation of burying bad memories. Back when he was known as Trashy, Jonas “Kold” Andersen played in NA as he joined Challenger Series team Enemy in 2015. The Dane got off to a great start in his new region as they qualified for the LCS in his first split, yet the team was relegated just as quickly – and after a difficult few months, Kold decided to return to Europe with Splyce to save his reputation.

There’s also the case of Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez, who last year suffered a difficult season in NA with TSM. The Spaniard, and his then bot-lane partner Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, were in high demand before the NA giants signed them.

However, things didn’t go as planned. In Spring last year, a shock quarter-final defeat at the hands of Clutch Gaming meant TSM didn’t even qualify for Rift Rivals, and later the team would fail to make Worlds too. 

Fans began to lay the heat on Mithy for the team’s shortcomings, and as a result, he headed to Europe and went back to Origen to avenge his name. And what better way to do that, than to defeat your former team and bot-lane partner of four years?

G2: Trophy hunters

G2 trophies

G2 will be hoping to add another trophy to their collection this year

G2 will be looking to build on their excellent season by winning Rift Rivals for a second time and they’ll feel confident of accomplishing just that. To the delight of European fans, G2 decimated Team Liquid earlier this year in the fastest MSI final ever, as the best of five series clocked in at just 74 minutes and 43 seconds.

And if that performance alone didn’t have the LCS teams worried, G2’s adaptability will. Whether it’s Perkz taking AP champions into the bot-lane, the multi-role flexing of Pyke or even the return of the funneling strat, G2 are one of the most creative teams in the world and you never quite know what they’ll pull off next. Good luck to the LCS team that has to face them during the final relay.

That creativity is encompassed by Rasmus “Caps” Winther whose wild side has been unleashed since leaving Fnatic. Rift Rivals will provide the Dane with some exciting match-ups but while we’ve seen him beat Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen many a time, the real excitement will be seeing Caps take on Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. For many years, Bjergsen was considered the best western mid-laner, but that crown has been taken by Caps in recent times. Now that Caps has more experience under his belt since they last met at Rift Rivals 2017, G2 vs TSM should be an exciting watch.

Fnatic: In fine form

Fnatic Broxah

All of Fnatic have looked excellent in recent weeks, especially Broxah

Going into Rift Rivals this year, there may not be a team in better form than Fnatic. With wins over Origen and G2 already this split, Fnatic look far better than they did earlier this year. 

Fnatic were disappointed with their third-place finish in the Spring Split, and decided to return to a six-man roster with Daniel “Dan” Hockley being promoted to the first team to give Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen competition for the starting jungle spot.

It was a decision that Broxah didn’t like, but it seemingly worked as the Dane has been playing phenomenally ever since. He was the primary reason for the win over G2 last week as he repeatedly found successful ganks in the early game, leaving the champions with a mountain to climb.

And like G2, Fnatic have also had success against NA teams in recent times as they dominated Cloud9 in the Worlds semi-finals last year – a series that Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau made a name for himself with following his excellent performances on Viktor. Hoping to have a similar impact will be Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek who will be competing internationally for the first time in the Fnatic jersey.

The Slovenian has slotted into Fnatic’s line-up nicely and began to truly show his potential in the Spring Playoffs with a penta-kill on Kayle as one of the many highlights. In interviews the mid-laner has come across as extremely composed, so matches against Bjergsen and Jensen will likely excite him – and not phase him.

Will the LEC teams take the Rift Rivals title home for the second year in a row? Which match-up are you excited to see? Let us know in the comments below!