Former ONGC forward Tarif Ahmed will lead record 31 times winners Bengal in their pursuit of hat-trick of titles in the 66th Santosh Trophy National Football Championships being held in Orissa.

Shabbir Ali, who had coached Bengal in their successful last two seasons, would once again be at the helm of affairs while Debasish Mukherjee has been made goalkeeping coach for the 20-member squad named today.

Optimistic of winning a hat-trick of titles, Shabbir Ali told PTI, “This is the best available team. Hope the boys would give their best and help us win the third title in a row. I’m thankful to the state association for giving me the opportunity for a third time.”

The coach, however, added that it would be a little tougher this time as only one team from the quarterfinal groups would qualify for the semifinals.

“Earlier two teams from the group qualified for the semifinals. But the competition would be stiffer with the change in format,” Shabbir said.

The two-time defending champions Bengal have been seeded directly to the 16-team quarterfinal round that will be played on a league basis.

Seven teams from the clusters and hosts Orissa will join eight teams in the quarterfinal stage that has been divided into four groups with four teams each.

Bengal have been clubbed alongside heavyweights Punjab in the quarterfinal Group A.

The group winners will qualify for the semifinals that will be held on May 25 in Cuttack while the summit clash is scheduled on May 28.

The squad will leave Cuttack on May 15.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Arnab Das Sharma, Prosenjit Das, Chirodeep Chatterjee.

Defenders: Mohan Sarkar, Soumik Roy, Sukanta Banerjee, Gurpreet Singh, Gour Naskar, Rana Ghrami, Sangram Mandi.

Midfielders: Mohammad Mukhtar, Tapan Maity, Binod Buari, Jamir Ali Mondal, Santosh Oroan, Surobuddin Mallick, Dipankar Das.

Forwards: Tarif Ahmed (Captain), Tanmoy Oroan, Mithun Oroan.

Chief coach: Shabbir Ali; Goalkeeping Coach: Debasish Mukerjee.

More In: Football | Sport