League of Legends: LEC Playoffs Preview: Fnatic vs. Team Vitality

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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Bwipo. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

Following a brief hiatus, European League of Legends returns to our screens this weekend with the opening round of the LEC playoffs. We’ll see the top six teams duke it out on the Rift over the next three weeks, starting with an exciting match-up between Fnatic and Team Vitality on Friday evening.

If you were to rank the greatest European teams of the last few years, there’s no doubt that these two organisations would be found near the top of the list. Fnatic haven’t finished lower than 3rd in playoffs since Summer 2016 and are the reigning EU champions after their triumph in Madrid last Summer. Meanwhile Vitality’s rise to success began in 2018, with two playoff semi-finals appearances and an excellent showing at Worlds, taking down Gen.G and RNG, almost progressing to the knockout stages in the process.

It’s no surprise that Fnatic and Vitality have qualified for the Spring LEC playoffs, but they may have liked it to come in a more convincing fashion. Despite only making a single roster change each in the off-season, it’s been a rocky start to the LEC for both rosters when many were expecting them to challenge for the top spot. With only two wins separating the 2nd and 6th placed teams in the regular season, they’ll definitely be kicking themselves having only marginally missed out on a playoff bye.

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A Tale of Two Halves

When the teams first met in Week 2, Fnatic were facing a crisis following a winless opening weekend having struggled to accommodate their new, rookie mid laner, Nemesis, to the line-up. Similarly, Vitality hadn’t yet found their feet in the LEC after a 1-1 start consisting of a poorly played defeat against Schalke 04 and a fortunate victory over Splyce.

Nevertheless, Vitality were the stronger team on the day and came out on top against a disappointing Fnatic in a very chaotic game. Vitality took charge in the early game and controlled the Rift with the help of Cabochard’s Player of the Game performance on Jayce. While their late game decision making was sometimes lacking, the Vitality squad eventually closed the game out due to strong teamfighting led by their solo laners, Cabochard and Jiizuke.

The second contest occurred in Week 6 when a 4-7 Fnatic upset an 8-3 Vitality and continued their eight-game winning streak to clinch playoffs qualification. It may not have been the cleanest showing from Fnatic, but it was night and day when compared to the first meeting between the two sides. Broxah’s control of the jungle, Hylissang’s crucial engages and Nemesis’ confident Player of the Game performance on Zoe were nowhere to be seen earlier in the season and vital to Fnatic’s victory.

Fnatic may have come out on top in the latest regular season clash, but playoff Bo5s are a completely different prospect. With a semi-finals spot, Championship Points and a trip to the Mid-Season Invitational all on the line, both teams will be hoping to cruise past their opponents on Friday. Here are three key individual match-ups that could decide the outcome of the first LEC playoff game of the season.