Turkmenistan international Ruslan Mingazov has signed with Kitchee ahead of the AFC Champions League, as the Hong Kong champions take their training camp to Thailand, a result of the city’s tough social distancing measures and a lack of training facilities. Narrowly missing a knockout round place in last year’s regional cup tie, Kitchee are keen to make amends as they embark on their 2022 campaign, although prolific striker Dejan Damjanovic has reached the age of 41. But the former Montenegro international still netted four times when playing for Kitchee in the top tier regional cup competition last year, making him the highest ever scorer of the AFC Champions League with 40 goals, including those when playing for clubs in South Korea and China. At 30, Mingazov has plenty of exposure in Europe when playing for teams in Latvia and Czech Republic. An established midfielder who can play on both flanks, Mingazov played 25 times for his country with four goals. Hong Kong Covid surge forces Kitchee to fly to Bangkok to train Kitchee will recall promising Cheng Chin-lung from Kwoon Chung Southern for their cup campaign, while winger Wellingsson de Souza can start as a Hong Kong player after meeting the residency requirement. The team will stay in a football training centre near Bangkok for five weeks, where they will play four to five friendlies – all behind closed doors – before travelling for the group competition with the host Thai city to be announced. Chu Chi-kwong, football director and head coach for the 2022 ACL campaign, urged the players to find their form quickly. “With the daunting challenges mounting in front of us, Kitchee will press forward and meet these challenges as representatives of Hong Kong,” Chu said. “The training camp will be like a preseason training where regaining match fitness will be our top priority.” Kitchee have not played a match since the government closed all sports venues in Hong Kong on January 8. Hong Kong club Kitchee drawn against Shanghai Port in Champions League Captain Huang Yang was well aware of the challenges ahead – getting ready for top-flight continental football in a mere five weeks. “We need to capitalise on this training camp, first by staying fit and getting ready for match preparation,” Yang said. Centre half Hélio Goncalves said the friendly matches would be essential in their build-up for competition. “We came so close to reaching the next round last year by losing a one-goal difference and need to find our match form as soon as possible, hopefully we can get into the last 16 this time,” the Hong Kong international said. Kitchee will start their campaign against Chiangrai United of Thailand on April 16 in group J which also features Chinese side Shanghai Port and winner of the play-off between Vissel Kobe of Japan and Melbourne Victory.