Buriram boss Bandovic made to wait as new boys work on fitness

Buriram United head coach Bozidar Bandovic admits it is too early for fans to see the best of the new signings in the Champions Cup against Chiang Rai United on Saturday.

The curtain raiser to the 2019 season sees 2018 Thai champions Buriram face FA Cup winners Chiang Rai, with both sides arguably looking weaker than last year.

Buriram have lost striker and talisman Diogo Luis Santo Santo to JDT, while Chiang Rai’s goal scoring centre-back Victor Cardozo has moved to PTT Rayong.

The champions have brought in former West Ham striker Modibo Maïga and ex-Japan international midfielder Hajime Hosogai but Buriram fans will not see the former against Chiang Rai, while Maïga may only make a place on the bench.

“Maïga has been with us for two-and-a-half weeks,” said Bandovic. “He is at a satisfactory level but not how we want him yet because you cannot fix a player in two-and-a-half weeks.

“He needs to work more individually but his condition is improving and he’s adapting very fast.”

While Maiga is nearing full fitness, Hosogai is still some weeks away from fighting for a starting position.

“Hosogai needs time,” said Bandovic. “He’s now in very low level conditioning because of the problems that he has had, so we need to wait for him.”

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While Diogo may be gone after an excellent four years at the club, Bandovic pointed to how Buriram have been able to adapt and flourish despite some challenges in recent seasons.

“I have been at the club for almost three years,” he said. “I think that during all this time, my philosophy has been that one team cannot depend on one player. This (losing Diogo) would just be one excuse for us and I think that excuses are for losers.

“If we go back, for example, to 2017, we played without Diogo for two months and in that time we were the team that scored the most goals and conceded the fewest.

“Of course, he helped us, he is a big player with lots of quality and we respect all the help he gave to the team.”

Having lost to Chiang Rai on penalties in this fixture last year, as well as in the 2018 FA Cup final, Buriram will be determined to get the better of the Beetles this time around.

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