RFDL 2023-24 National Championship Preview

RFDL 2023-24 National Championship Preview: Battle for best of the rest as Bengaluru FC, Muthoot FA square off in third-place playoffs

(More-on-sports) The Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) 2023-24 National Championship action enters its penultimate day when Muthoot FA and Bengaluru FC clash in the third-place playoff at the Reliance Corporate Park (RCP) in Mumbai, at 7:30 pm IST. The match will be live-streamed on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydcm5vDmvyo . 
The Blues were the two-time defending champions of the RFDL, having won the first two seasons of the tournament. However, their hopes of doing a three-peat dashed after going down in penalties to Punjab FC in the first semi-final on Tuesday. 
Muthoot FA, who were perhaps the story of the season so far, beating all odds to progress into the last-four, suffered a similar loss in penalties to East Bengal FC in the second semi-final, after the game produced a thrilling 3-3 draw in regulation time.   
Bengaluru FC 
Coached by former India U-23 national team tactician Bibiano Fernandes, Bengaluru FC were one of the standout performers in the opening couple of stages of the competition. In the Regional Qualifiers, they were pitted in the South Zone with teams like Roots FC, Sreenidi Deccan, and Chennaiyin FC, but the Blues produced an impeccable performance to earn 22 points from 10 games. They won seven matches and drew once, finishing atop the standings, a good three points ahead of the second-placed Roots FC. 

Watch highlights from Bengaluru FC’s last match here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5u5Ryh4fXI 
In the National Group Stage, they accumulated 10 points from four games by edging ahead of fierce competitors such as the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC), Kerala Blasters FC, Dempo SC, and Chennaiyin FC. 
19-year-old striker Monirul Molla, who made eight appearances for the senior team in the Indian Super League (ISL) season, has notched 13 strikes in RFDL 2023-24 season and he will be vital for their hopes of clinching the third spot tomorrow. Similarly, they will be boosted by the presence of Chingangbam Shivaldo Singh in the ranks, who played 12 times for Bengaluru FC in ISL 2023-24. 
“Giving playing time is the only way we can develop our players. Yeah, training is there, but there’s nothing like playing a competitive match. The RFDL matches are really helping the U-21 players, who are knocking the doors of the ISL, requiring more game-time. RFDL has been a wonderful bridge from reserve to the ISL teams. There is nothing like the exposure that RFDL provides. Reliance has been doing a great job in developing these players and I feel that the future is really, really bright,” coach Bibiano Fernandes said before the game. 
Muthoot FA 
Muthoot FA have set the tone for their incredible run in RFDL 2023-24 right from the beginning of the campaign. They played the Regional Qualifiers in the Kerala Zone, and overtook the likes of Kerala Blasters FC and Gokulam Kerala FC in the points table. Muthoot FA competed in 10 games, winning eight of them and losing twice. They scored 27 goals and conceded only 13, with their goal difference of +14 being the best in the group. 

Watch the highlights from Muthoot FA’s last match here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17ejqje72jI 
The National Group Stage saw them face stiff competition from teams such as FC Goa, Roots FC, Parappur FC, and GMSC. However, there was no stopping Muthoot FA, who notched three wins and a draw to bag 10 points with the help of 14 goals to their name. 
Impressively, they didn’t concede even a single strike during the National Group Stage. They like starting games on the frontfoot, as evident by the two-goal lead they took at half-time against East Bengal FC in the semi-final. Their indomitable spirit reflected in the high-octane 3-3 draw, and one can be rest assured that Bengaluru FC are encountering a tough nut to crack in the third-place playoffs. 
Salahudeen Adnan K will be their star striker for the match, having struck 10 goals in the competition this season. 
“Muthoot FA’s team spirit remains resilient despite our loss to East Bengal in the semi-final of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL). The team, though disappointed, is focused on the upcoming third-place match against Bengaluru FC. We need to finish the tournament on a high note. The players are determined to showcase their skills and end the season with a strong performance,” coach Anees Koraliyadan said before the game. 
He added, “In preparation for the match against Bengaluru FC, which is a strong opposition with a lot of experienced players, Muthoot FA is working on refining our strategies and ensuring that the players stay motivated. The team is drawing on their previous experiences and aiming to learn from the semi-final defeat to come back stronger.” 

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