With the LEC 2019 Summer Playoffs this weekend, all eyes are on Fnatic and G2 Esports. Meanwhile, FC Schalke 04 look to break into the limelight and upset this predestined final.
Schalke has quietly advanced through an LEC playoffs where all eyes have been unflinchingly focused on the upper bracket. When glances were passed downwards, it was usually to check on the upstart Rogue team, who’d upset Splyce in the opening round. But Schalke had their own campaign for the finals, which sometimes looked shaky, but as of yet, has always been victorious.
In their opening round one bout with Team Vitality looked almost in perfect control. Throughout games one and two, veteran players Felix “Abbedagge” Braun and Kim “Trick” Gang-yun relentlessly laid into a Vitality side that seemed to have no one able to match their talent. In game three, Vitality was able to swing the momentum of the game, in a messy affair that saw Schalke ‘s usually reliable toplaner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu look out of sorts, and lose lane to Lucas “Cabochard ” Simon-Meslet.
While Schalke was ultimately victorious after a fourth game, their performance in the third matchup had cast doubt on their ability to securely finish out games. And when the team faced Rogue, a similar pattern emerged. Rogue was able to sneak the first game away in what at one point looked to be a massive upset. However, Schalke rallied behind their veterans, defeating Rogue and dashing their playoff hopes.
The common factor in these series were the single matches lost to small mistakes and misplays. And it’s these kinds of tiny errors that a team like Fnatic will not allow to go unpunished. In their incredible game against G2 Esports, Fnatic showed just how devastating they could be when they exploit weaknesses in a team’s composition or gameplay. They took advantage of G2’s unfamiliarity with the Garen bottom matchup in game one, and then outplayed them in straight matchups in game two. Only when G2 were able to adjust did they manage to regain control, and vanquish Fnatic.
Playing perfectly, and without mistakes is a huge ask of any team. And so the better option for Schalke, will be to drag the games out. It was the long-game format that first allowed G2 to defeat Fnatic. And Schalke will have to be the one jumping on their opponent’s mistakes, rather than the victim, as they have been in previous matchups. Then, and only then, will they be able to reach the finals.
Ultimately, for Schalke to reach this point the stars will have to align. What’s more, if the team does make finals, the LEC fan may instead see them as cruel usurpers of the “true finals match,” rather than the chipper underdogs they are. And without fan support, the team will have yet another hurdle to navigate.