BLAST group stage preview

Tier one Counter-Strike is coming back with a vengeance with BLAST. Here's what you need to look out for in the next few days.

Group A

G2 are the clear favourites in group A, and we get our first look at m0NESY and Aleksib against a slightly weaker group; which brings its own pressures.

Expectation to win the group becomes very dangerous when you're a new team in best of ones, but that's something G2 are going to have to get used to. You don't spend this much money to come second.

NiP, BIG and Complexity will, in theory, be duking it out for second place. NiP would normally be the team one would expect, but without device their chances are a little bit diminished.

BIG will likely be next in line; with faveN on board, their firepower is more than just 'tabseN and friends' and they can really break their top 10 gatekeeper mould. One team they'll be needing to beat to maintain their spot near the top is the boisterous Complexity, fresh with their new roster.

Dripping with talent but a little bit raw, Complexity have shown a little of what they're about but have an opportunity to really put themselves among the big boys. BIG and NiP are good teams, but beatable - and if you want to be up there, this is a pretty good chance to make it into the playoffs.

All smiles for G2, or a rocky start?

Group B

While G2 will be expected to win, NaVi can't even imagine not winning.

The best team in the world are coming in to the new year with no changes and even higher expectations; everyone has changed to try and meet them, and now they have to set the pace. The good news for them is, this is a group that is very winnable.

MIBR have a free hit, but very little suggests they'll be getting the better of either OG or Astralis. Having said that, though, Astralis' form has been patchy at best.

Since the first tournament with k0nfig and blameF, Astralis have been entirely underwhelming - including a BO3 loss to K23 at Funspark ULTI. It's hard to write gla1ve off entirely - or indeed at all - but this hasn't set the world alight to begin with.

OG come in with their new IGL, but with no firepower changes, hopes are a little quiet for this new team. nexa has a job on his hands to transform Aleksib's system into one that is in some way better, but maybe the lower expectation will help them out.

While G2 will be expected to win, NaVi can't even imagine not winning.

Is there any chance they don't win?

Group C

Now this is a spicy group.

Picking a favourite out of Liquid, Vitality and FaZe Clan is nigh on impossible. Every single fan of this game is excited to see ZywOo and the old Astralis boys collab, and like the Harlem Globetrotters, they've picked an easy opponent to stunt on to begin with.

Evil Geniuses are bringing their new roster to town, but with players returning from periods out of competitive play and two players whose form has been pretty awful for the last year, Vitality will be hoping to smash them.

FaZe Clan will give us a glimpse of what ropz can do and just how this roster is going to tessellate, but they'll have to do so against a new-look Liquid roster who have some similar issues to EG, but have the interesting factor of oSee.

While I'm personally expecting karrigan to have figured things out a bit quicker than nitr0, Liquid have some serious upset potential in this group.