Real Madrid found a way to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, by moving the first team squad's matches to the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium for a year and a half. This week, they have finally returned to the hallowed ground at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, following the completion of renovation work.

The pitch at the Di Stefano is an exact replica of the one at Santiago Bernabeu, and with spectators banned throughout the 2020/21 season, it was a good alternative venue to host matches. Because of this relocation, the club was able to move forward with the renovation of their home stadium with lightning speed. Over the weekend, the first team squad trained at the Bernabeu pitch for the first time since March 2020. The training session was done in preparation for their first home match at the newly-renovated stadium against Celta Vigo on Sunday.

The Bernabeu last saw competitive action back in March 1, 2020, when Los Blancos defeated FC Barcelona 2-0. Now, more than a year and a half later, manager Carlo Ancelotti decided to train at the pitch ahead of their first match back to give players time to get reacquainted with the surroundings.

Club president Florentino Perez welcomed the squad on the pitch on Saturday, making it an even more meaningful event. Now, Real Madrid will be fighting hard to secure a victory in their first home match back, to give them a positive start to a new era at the refurbished stadium. It was reported earlier that the club had invited all of the workers who were involved in the renovation to watch the match on Sunday.

Luka Modric, Nacho and Marcelo are also returning from injury, but it remains to be seen if Ancelotti will be confident enough to start them. Meanwhile, Toni Kroos is still sidelined after finally addressing a lingering groin injury.

Real Madrid
Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium underwent renovation work this summer. AFP / Gabriel BOUYS