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Top
LCK

LoL Week in Review: FC Schalke 04 Consider Selling Spot

Mike Plant

Each of the four major regions is now in the second half of their Spring Splits. For the LEC’s FC Schalke 04, this could end up being one of their final seasons. Meanwhile, Cloud9 took control of the LCS, T1 had yet another player make his debut, and Uzi is no longer a member of Royal Never Give Up. We take a look at the top news and storylines across the LEC, LCS, LPL, and LCK.

FC Schalke 04

FC Schalke 04 may be forced to sell their LEC slot due to financial problems. (Photo courtesy Riot Games - Michal Konkol)

FC SCHALKE 04 CONSIDER SELLING LEC SLOT

Early last week, a report from L’equipe surfaced that FC Schalke 04 may be forced to sell their LEC spot due to financial issues in the organization. The German soccer club is last in the Bundesliga standings and is facing relegation. This impending demotion would cause further financial strain after fans were unable to attend games during the covid pandemic.

To their credit, FC Schalke 04 released their own statement to clarify their situation. Authored by Managing Director Tim Reichert and Claudio Kasper, the statement admits that “the club needs to look into all options to secure additional funding.” It continues: “This includes, but is not limited to, selling the LEC slot to an interested buyer.” They close the statement by noting that the club does not want to sell the slot and will not necessarily have to even if the soccer club is relegated, but FC Schalke 04 are exploring all of their options.

This is obviously an unfortunate turn of events for a team that had always been trying to build a contender in the LEC. Over the past couple years, FC Schalke 04 have been a quality team that was just a piece or two away from competing at the top of the LEC. In 2018, they narrowly avoided Worlds qualification by finishing second in the EU Regional Finals to G2 Esports. They then finished third in the 2019 Regional Finals and had their miracle run in 2020 fall short in the Summer playoffs.

After returning the core of the 2020 team this year, FC Schalke 04 have had a disappointing season so far in the LEC. While they beat G2 Esports and Rogue in back-to-back games early in the season, S04 are now on a four-game losing streak and are just 5-8 on the season. They are tied with Excel Esports and Misfits Gaming for sixth place in the LEC, currently on the outside looking in of the playoff race.

While it would be a shame if they were forced to sell, it doesn’t seem like there will be any problem filling the slot in the LEC. L’equipe reported that FC Schalke 04 could make up to €20 million euros for selling their spot. Considering that their 2018 buy-in fee was €8 million euros, that would still be a healthy profit for the German club.

It’s possible that the looming uncertainty has created a tough environment for the players over the past couple of weeks. With two weeks left in the regular season, FC Schalke 04 need to get back on track quickly. Only G2 Esports and Rogue have secured their playoff spots so far, so S04 still have plenty to play for. They get matches against MAD Lions (8-5) and Astralis (3-10) in week seven.

CLOUD9 IN CONTROL OF THE LCS

Already in the second half of the regular season, control of first place in the LCS was up for grabs between 100 Thieves and Cloud9 to close the week. Cloud9 took convincing wins over Golden Guardians and Evil Geniuses to advance to 9-2 ahead of the matchup. 100 Thieves took less convincing wins over Counter Logic Gaming and Dignitas, but they entered the match 9-3. Only one game behind C9 in the standings, 100T could tie C9 in record and head-to-head with a win.

Cloud9 made sure that didn’t happen. Looking better and better every week, Cloud9 dominated 100 Thieves 14 kills to 2 in only 24 minutes. The game was reasonably close in the early-mid game, but once C9 got a lead, it was over. Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami, much-maligned in Lock In and early in the season, got the better of Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho’s Aatrox (0/3/0) on Camille (5/1/5). When 100T doesn’t win their most favored individual matchup, it’s going to be tough to beat C9.

On the other hand, Cloud9 took full advantage of theirs. Luka “Perkz” Perković took Leblanc into Tanner “Damonte” Damonte’s Azir, knowing full well that Damonte could just build Verdant Barrier in the matchup. Damonte did, and it still did not matter. Perkz solo killed Damonte at level three, using nothing but auto attacks and ignite. Perkz later upgraded to a full Mejai’s Soulstealer with zero stacks on his Dark Seal.

If the disrespect wasn’t clear enough, Fudge admitted as much in the postgame. Talking with LS, Fudge relayed that Perkz said: “maybe against better players I don’t pick Leblanc.” That is the type of game-changing talent that C9 expected when they acquired Perkz from G2 Esports in the offseason.

The matchup between Robert “Blaber” Huang and Can “Closer” Çelik ended up being very one-sided. Closer’s 2/0/0 Udyr performance wasn’t bad, but he had nowhere near the impact of Blaber’s 4/0/7 Olaf. C9 are so confident in Blaber’s Olaf that they left Udyr open on red side. Cloud9 forced 100 Thieves to pick between giving Blaber Olaf or Udyr. Considering Blaber is now 8-1 on Olaf all-time, it might be time for teams to stop giving that one over to him.

With the win, C9 now have a two-game lead in the LCS standings. C9 have clearly had the best regular season so far, but they will have to prove they can beat Team Liquid in a best-of series in the playoffs. Team Liquid got the best of C9 3-2 in the Lock In Finals. If TL can get back on track, we could be looking at a rematch for the right to represent North America at MSI 2021.

ONER LATEST TO MAKE DEBUT FOR T1

T1 have had a dizzying amount of lineup changes so far in 2021. In the first half of the season, only support Ryu “Keria” Min-seok had started every game. 2020 ace top laner Kim “Canna” Chang-dong has seen his spot taken by 17 year old phenom Choi “Zeus” Woo-je in top lane. Choi “Ellim” El-lim got the majority of the starts in jungle, but 2020 starter Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan played against Liiv SANDBOX. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Lee “Clozer” Ju-hyeon have been back-and-forth in mid lane, as have Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong and Park “Teddy” Jin-seong in the bot lane. Was this finally the week we would see some stability out of T1?

Nope.

Instead, T1 have introduced a new player into their starting lineup. Moon “Oner” Hyeon-joon made his LCK debut for T1, becoming the third jungler to start for T1 this season. In the three matches since his debut, T1 has stuck with the same starting five: Zeus, Oner, Clozer, Teddy, and Keria.

Oner has played very well in his three matches. The first two were 2-0 sweeps of Liiv SANDBOX and Nongshim RedForce. Oner was clearly the better jungler in both of these matches, and that includes Han “Peanut” Wang-ho. And, even though T1 lost their series 1-2 to DAMWON KIA, Oner matched up well against Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu. Oner immediately looks the part of a star player.

The problem, of course, is that T1 have stars all over their roster. Individual play is not the problem in their 6-6 start to the season. T1 have no identity and do not play well around each other — presumably because they have no idea who will be sitting next to them each day. Players are also constantly looking over their shoulders and fearful of making a mistake that could cost them their spot in the lineup.

T1 are clearly using the Spring Split to experiment and try to figure out their best five-man roster. Unfortunately, they are now running out of time. With only four weeks left in the regular season, T1 are not secure in their playoff standing. We’ll see if they stick with the same five that have started the last seven games. If recent history is any indication, only Keria’s spot in the lineup is secure.

UZI OFFICIALLY PARTS WAYS WITH ROYAL NEVER GIVE UP

LPL legend Jian “Uzi” Zi-hao retired at the end of the 2020 Spring Split after not playing a single game for Royal Never Give Up. Uzi was dealing with a myriad of health problems and needed to improve before he could consider playing professionally again. However, he did say that he hoped he could come back in the future.

If Uzi does, it will not be as a member of Royal Never Give Up. Uzi announced that he and Royal Never Give Up have officially parted ways. The new organization that Uzi has joined is not a professional LoL organization, but rather a multi-channel network. That has led to speculation that Uzi is expected to spend the remainder of 2021 focused on streaming.

The rumors that Uzi was being held hostage in his contract with RNG also picked up steam when his girlfriend was critical of how RNG handled the situation. It has long been rumored that Uzi and RNG had a falling out and Uzi was attempting to wait out his contract before returning to professional play with another organization.

To RNG’s credit, they are playing very well in this post-Uzi era. Chen “GALA” Wei, while no Uzi, has paired well with Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming to stabilize the bot lane. RNG’s swap of Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao to top lane has also been wildly successful.

RNG’s most recent 2-0 win over FunPlus Phoenix bumped them up to 8-1 on the season. They are currently second in the LPL, sitting a half game behind EDward Gaming (9-1). They’ll have a shot to take over sole possession of first place when they play EDG at the end of week seven.

We will probably never know the full story, but we now know this is the end between Uzi and RNG. The two accomplished so much in their seven years together, but it has come to a sad end. There is still hope we could see Uzi play on stage again. Unfortunately, we could be waiting on that for at least another year.

LOOKING AHEAD

There are a pair of big matches to highlight in the LPL in week seven. First, two long-time LPL powerhouses in RNG (8-1) and EDward Gaming (9-1) square off on Saturday, March 6. The match will likely determine which of the two ends the week in possession of first place in the LPL. Then, Invictus Gaming and Top Esports close the action as the final game of the week on Sunday, March 7.

It is mostly an uneventful week seven in the LCK, as DAMWON KIA play only once. The big match to check in on is between Hanwha Life Esports (7-4) and Gen.G (9-3) on Sunday. The match has important playoff seeding implications, especially if HLE can complete the season sweep of Gen.G

Rogue (11-2) will be heavily tested in week seven of the LEC. They start the week against G2 Esports (11-2) in a battle for first place on Friday, March 5. They then play MAD Lions in the LEC’s match of the week to close the action on Saturday.

In the LCS, there are three matches with important seeding implications. 100 Thieves (8-4) and TSM (8-4) will fight for second place on Saturday. TSM will then finish a tough week against Cloud9 (10-2) on Sunday. However, all eyes will be on Team Liquid (7-5) and Cloud9 on Saturday afternoon. Cloud9 have been better in the regular season, but TL got the better of them at Lock In Finals.