Services will be looking to complete a hat-trick of titles as the final phase of the 68th National football championship for the Santosh Trophy begins at the Kanchenjungha Stadium on Monday.
The first day’s action begins in the group-A league, where Kerala will take on Mizoram while Maharashtra meets Uttarakhand.
Services, which gains its strength from a core group of players playing together over the years, still remains the team to beat.
Kerala, a five-time champion, will be also be aiming for a knockout berth from the group, which also has Maharashtra, Mizoram and Uttarakhand.
Mizoram will be another big contender while Uttarakhand and Maharashtra will look to make their mark.
The group-B poses the toughest challenge with four former champions jostling for two semifinal berths. Bengal, which has won the title 31 times, will be hoping to regain the crown after a beak of two seasons.
Punjab, an eight-time champion, Goa (5) and Railways (3) complete the list of former champions, making predictions difficult about the possible qualifiers from the group. — Principal Correspondent