Photo: Riot Games

The last — and arguably most exciting — Best of 5 remaining before the playoffs officially conclude. To say that this is an exciting match-up would truly be an understatement. On paper, this clash has the potential be one for the history books. Even though the LCS landscape often changes in unexpected ways, we could always envision yet another Team Liquid vs. Cloud9 split finals. In fact, one could argue that this was the only match-up that made sense.

Both Liquid and Cloud9 are the only North American teams (excluding Counter Logic Gaming and their 2016 Mid-Season Invitational run) that have ever attained any semblance of success on the international stage. They are the only two North American teams that have made their region proud. So it only makes sense that they should be the ones to go the distance and clash once again in the finals.

But no one could have foreseen the many narratives surrounding his match-up, along with the metric ton of hype and momentum both teams have coming into the finals.

But before delving deeper into the match-up itself, let’s look at both teams separately, and how they got this far.

Team Liquid is, as you surely already know, the reigning, defending LCS champions. They’ve won three championships in a row, and by doing so have tied Team SoloMid for the most consecutive victories in LCS history. By defeating Cloud9, they would etch their names in history, and would accomplish a spectacular feat that, by all intents and purposes, won’t be broken for a long, long time — if ever.

If we take a look at their regular season run, however, there’s a lot to like and dislike at the same time. There were their patented Liquidesque moments of brilliance, but more than just a couple of fumbles as well. Despite their commendable accomplishments, they were unexpectedly vulnerable — given their pedigree. We don’t have to turn back the clock much in order to see that as well, seeing how they were nearly brought down by Clutch Gaming just mere days ago. They made more mistakes than anyone expected, and they simply weren’t as dominant, clean, or proactive as one would expect from a team with their laurels.

Cloud9, on the other hand, have been staggeringly flexible, creative, and perhaps even a bit unhinged every time they stepped foot on stage. They were far from perfect, but thanks to their jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, they were able to often weather the storm and persevere under imperfect circumstances. The legendary European jungler became the first man wearing a Cloud9 jersey to have received the highly-coveted MVP award — an incredible feat, no doubt. His play was, simply put, awe-inspiring, and was the reason Cloud9 was able to get the win more often than not.

As a team, they had their fair share of ups and downs, but have always stepped up when it mattered the most. Above their heads, however, lies a fascinating narrative. The organization itself is as legendary as they come, but hasn’t tasted ultimate triumph in half a decade. Five long years have passed since Cloud9 last won the LCS. A drought, in every sense of the word. They want it, and they want it badly. They’re sick and tired of always playing second fiddle to someone seemingly more talented and adept at that one point in time. The only player that has remained from that championship-worthy roster is Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Everyone else has yet to lift an LCS trophy.

Recent history is also not particularly kind to Cloud9 when it comes to facing Team Liquid. They have lost every important match ever since Liquid’s dominance started, so it’s kind of hard to get hyped about a potential upset win.

Saying who’s going to win this Best of 5 is an incredibly thankless task. In fact, one could argue that it’s even impossible. Most of the information we have is heavily outdated, or simply no longer as valid as one would think. The fact that Liquid has a stellar record over Cloud9 shouldn’t impact our judgement too much, seeing how both teams grew (and changed) considerably over the last couple of months. These are titans in every sense of the word, and they adapt whenever it is necessary. It’s also hard to give Cloud9 any benefit of the doubt seeing how they failed to get the win even when they had Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in their line-up (a mid laner many deem superior to his current replacement).

Conversely, Team Liquid always stepped up when it mattered. They know they’re on the brink of writing history, which should definitely give them a noticeable push tomorrow night. What’ll happen is anyone’s guess, as both teams are known for exceptional flashes of brilliance. The fact that Cloud9 won both of their most recent Best of 1 encounters makes us think that this series definitely can go the distance. Regardless, we simply have to side with Team Liquid. They still haven’t given us a reason to doubt them.

Winner: Team Liquid, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)