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Fans return to Bernabéu amid €800m redevelopment project

Real Madrid’s iconic Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is set to stage its first La Liga fixture in almost 600 days this weekend despite its major redevelopment project being only partially completed.

The Spanish giants will welcome around 30,000 fans for the visit of Celta Vigo, some 560 days after supporters last watched the team play at the Bernabéu for a fixture against Barcelona in March 2020 prior to the first COVID-19 lockdown.

With crowds banned last season, the club accelerated the €800m redevelopment of the Bernabéu and the team played its home games at the tiny Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium at the Ciudad Real Madrid training complex.

Workers have had to make quick progress ahead of the Celta game, with recent days seeing turf laid and floodlight tests. Dressing rooms and media areas have been renovated, while fans attending this weekend will also see the retractable roof skeleton and partially completed new towers that have been constructed.

However, the stadium’s capacity has been reduced from more than 80,000 to around 50,000 because the low and high stands of the south end and the west side are not yet built. Tarpaulins will cover those areas in the first games.

Spanish stadiums are restricted to a maximum 60% capacity in September with fans required to be 1.5m apart, meaning just 30,000 fans will be able to attend this month.

It is thought the project will be finally completed in January 2023.

In introducing the redevelopment project in 2019, club president Florentino Perez said the stadium will be transformed into a “technological platform”. The revamped stadium will feature a 360-degree video scoreboard that is set to become one of the standout elements of the redesign.

The stadium, which first opened in 1947, will also feature a fixed and retractable roof and steel surround skin that will be capable of projecting imagery and illuminating the venue. While the stadium’s capacity will remain at 81,000, it will be 10m higher due to the installation of the roof system.