First-ever RFDL title up for grabs as Kerala, Bengaluru lock horns in clash of titans

Bengaluru FC take on Kerala Blasters in the RFDL final
Bengaluru FC take on Kerala Blasters in the RFDL final / RFDL

Kerala Blasters FC and Bengaluru FC will renew acquaintances knowing one of them will walk out as the first-ever champions of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) in a title-deciding clash at the Benaulim Ground in Goa on Thursday.

Curtains will be drawn on what has been a riveting league providing the next generation of footballers a platform to showcase their talents in a fitting manner with a clash of the titans, both hungry to cap off a stellar campaign with silverware.

Bengaluru have been perfect so far, with one more hurdle in their way to finishing with the full quota of 21 points from seven games, an incredible feat underlining their supremacy in the competition. The Blues have scored a whopping 19 goals in the RFDL so far, striker Rahul Raju netting seven goals alone and sitting on top of the goalscoring charts.

Kerala, meanwhile, have finished second-best in only one game against FC Goa, otherwise dominating proceedings with five wins and not conceding a single goal before the Goa game. They have 15 points to Bengaluru's 18 and will need to get the better of their southern rivals to clinch the title on head-to-head count. Bengaluru will need to avoid defeat.

Bengaluru, as they have done in all their games, are likely to come at Kerala all guns blazing from the get-go. Under coach Naushad Moosa, the Blues have played an attacking brand of football with the likes of Bekey Oram and Damaitphang Lyngdoh being very effective in the middle of the park. Raju has got the goals more often than not with Lastborn Mawphniang and Oram also chipping in, but their strength lies in operating as a unit. Kerala have let in the fewest amount of goals, but Bengaluru have also been solid defensively, shipping only four goals in six games.

In Kerala though, Bengaluru will face their toughest test yet. The boys in yellow under Polish coach Tomasz Tchorz may not have scored truckloads of goals like their rivals, but have echoed a very settled look spurred massively by the first-team squad members spraying their experience around the lot here. From skipper Ayush Adhikari who has been a midfield linchpin to Bijoy Varghese marshalling the backline and Vincy Barretto finding the back of the net and making those mazy runs, Kerala have not only had performers but leaders all around the pitch, the bedrock for their success.

It will also be a tactical battle on Thursday, Tchorz looking to counter Moosa's attacking approach and finding a way to upset the applecart. It promises to be a humdinger in front of fans expected to turn out in numbers at the Benaulim Ground.

In the morning kickoff at the Nagoa Ground, Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC will aim to finish their campaign on a high.