Sell-out expected as Chelsea – and their fans – make triumphant return to packed Stamford Bridge

It will be just short of 18 months when Chelsea take on Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge to open up the 2021/22 Premier League season for both sides when SW6 will have been full to capacity.

The last time the Blues home was packed out was on March 8 2020 when Chelsea smashed four unanswered goals past Everton in front of 40,694 paying spectators.

Mason Mount, Pedro, Willian and Olivier Giroud were all on target for the home side in a game that saw Frank Lampard hand a senior debut to striker Armando Broja and Tino Anjorin also got a 20 minute run out.

Willian and Pedro wouldn’t play in front of their home fans again after that.

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For the fans who streamed out into the Fulham Road having seen their side remain in fourth place in the table on 66 points, level on points with Man Utd in third, wouldn’t have envisaged what was to come.

Coronavirus was prevalent in the UK and cases were rising rapidly across Europe, but life was carrying on in London and across the country as usual.

The Everton game went ahead, as did all the Premier League matches that weekend, but with players not shaking hands before kick off owing to the threat of Covid-19 spreading.

Then, not long after the Blues’ win over the Toffees, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for Covid and football came crashing down. Days later, Callum Hudson-Odoi also tested positive and with that, football was brought to a juddering halt.

The Premier League had been breached.

Pretty much ever since, Stamford Bridge has been effectively frozen in time, like a monument to how football used to be.

For those of us who were fortunate to be able to go back to stadia after Project Restart last June 17 for the final seven games of the season, then through the whole ordeal of 2020/21 which was played behind closed doors for 99 per cent of the time, reminders were there of pre-Covid football.

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