LONDON — This was the day Premier League fans returned to stadiums. The day they had been waiting for. The day they hoped for. And it was brilliant to witness it with my own eyes.
March 9 was the last day a Premier League game had fans in attendance. 271 days later, on December 5, fans returned. Other leagues across Europe have had fans return, but England’s top-flight has been banned, until now as the UK government changed their rules this week.
The 2,000 Chelsea fans (at times it sounded like 20,000) allowed in to Stamford Bridge cheered their players at every chance they got, and booed Leeds’ players at every chance they got. Old friends said hello again in the street outside their favorite pre-game pub. Staff members reunited. It was emotional. Certain moments left goosebumps.
Overall, it provided a warm fuzzy feeling that even though it will take a while to return to normality. It’s on the way back. The Premier League fans return was an emotional moment for everyone.
Having attended plenty of games in empty stadiums during the pandemic, I can tell you this made a huge, huge difference to the overall atmosphere and the intensity of the game. At times it felt like 20,000 fans were present instead of 2,000.
Outside the stadium it was like a regular Saturday in west London. Lots, and lots, of traffic. People doing their shopping, sat in pubs watching sports on TV and sat outside restaurants with heaters on newly-built terraces due to the pandemic. But outside pubs, fans were meeting up again for pre-match pint: ‘how are you mate!?’ and ‘It is great to see you again!’ The buzz in the air transmitted from the street outside the stadium to the pitch.
✅🏟👋 Welcome to Stamford Bridge! 2,000 fans are here to watch Chelsea for the 1st time in 9 months.
The look on the faces of the Chelsea players when they came out just before kick off said it all. I was lucky enough to be sat right behind the Chelsea bench, and Jorginho was joining in the singing. Cesar Azpilicueta was clapping. Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham were smiling. Players are professionals and have played in empty stadiums for nine months, but there’s no doubt they absolutely loved having fans back.
The Chelsea fans behind the goal were goading Illan Meslier: ‘Your mom hates you’ and ‘What are you doing with your feet?’ were just a few of the comments. Bit harsh. Chelsea fans were also not happy with the referee at times and it was just like old times. Chanting against opponents and the officials is an age-old tradition. Premier League fans are known for their ruthlessness and passion and it was on show here.
Still quiet at times
Stamford Bridge, like most Premier League stadiums, is a big old venue. During spells when fans weren’t chanting you could hear the water system inside as the drains flushed. Hand dryers from nearby toilets were going off. Sounds from door slamming and radios from stewards were going off. Even though there was a lot more noise than there has been, little moments still stuck out to remind you that we are in a pandemic and there are still moments of eerie silence.
Reminders for fans to follow the rules
There was a reminder over the PA system to stop fans from ‘persistent standing’ which is against the COVID-19 rules. It only happened once, after 15 minutes, and that was it. Fans seemed to follow all of the rules closely and were spaced out enough for there to not be any big issues.
Announcement just went over the PA system here at Stamford Bridge asking the Chelsea fans to sit down. It said if they continue to stand up in their seat then no fans will be allowed back to games. #CFC#CHELEE
“Really, really nice to be back! I didn’t think they would be this loud!” said a Chelsea staff member dishing out cups of tea at half time. “It’s comforting!” It really was. The background noise of chants going on was soothing, calming and reminded everyone of pre-COVID times. Plenty of staff members were back for the first time too and greetings, elbow bumps and nods were plentiful.
Intensity of the game improved
There was just more energy throughout the game. Both teams played at a high tempo, and both usually do, but there was more drive, more enthusiasm and more direction with fans present. After being at plenty of games during the pandemic, the intensity was a lot lower without fans. 100 percent.
🔵👏⚪️ My half time thoughts from here at Stamford Bridge.
They got to hear Luke Ayling telling Leeds’ Jack Harrison to ‘slow the f*** down’ and walk when he was subbed off so they could have a breather. They got to hear Diego Llorente yelp in pain and then heckle him the rest of the game. Chelsea’s fans were allowed to interact with players, knowing the players could hear them very clearly, and it created a great atmosphere. They were so involved. You got the sense that the Leeds players didn’t mind being heckled, because at least fans were there to heckle them, but it did have an impact.
Home advantage returns
Even though it is only 2,000 fans, when they got on the back of an opposition player you sensed it got to them. Llorente and Raphinha went missing in the second half once the Chelsea fans had a go at them. Home advantage hasn’t been a thing during the pandemic period, but now it is. Fans roared on their players late in the game and they responded. Reece James stuck to his task and defended well, getting a huge ovation. It helped get Chelsea over the line. “They had an influence,” Marcelo Bielsa said when asked about the fans. They certainly did.
Hope has arrived for the future
For me, the Premier League fans return experiment worked so well in the stadium and in the streets outside that it is only a matter of time that regulations are further relaxed. If London is moved down from Tier 2 to Tier 1 restrictions by the UK government, 4,000 fans will be in attendance under their current rules. That would be easily doable. The Premier League and its clubs want up to 25-30 percent capacity at stadiums, and that may be a push but it could happen soon. Fans returning on this small scale provided hope that it can be done safely. Time will tell if that is the case, but precautions seemed to limit any real danger, and everyone enjoyed it.
🙌❤️🔵 Wonderful, lovely, emotional scenes here at the final whistle at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard & Thiago Silva lead the celebrations.
Pep Guardiola’s Man City can momentarily cut the gap to leaders Arsenal to five points but they are without goalscoring machine Erling Haaland for this game after he suffered a groin injury before the international break. City are looking for a three-peat of Premier League titles and five in the last six seasons, but Arsenal don’t look like they’re going to slip up anytime soon. So City can’t afford to either. They’ve won six in a row in all competitions, scoring 23 and conceding once in that run. We all know they love to kick on at this point of the campaign, so let’s see if they can do it again.
As for Liverpool, well, it has been one step forward and one step back pretty much all season long for Jurgen Klopp’s side. After their 7-0 shellacking of Manchester United, they then lost at Bournemouth to infuriate Klopp and their fans further. The front three of Salah, Nunez and Gakpo are all clicking through the gears nicely but Liverpool have to become more consistent and dominant games in midfield if they’re going to close the gap to the current top four. They’ve had success against City in recent years as their contrasting style of play match up well but this seems like a different, more fragile, Liverpool this season.
How to watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday TV Channel: Peacock Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
The loss of Haaland is obviously a huge concern for City as he suffered a groin issue and did not play for Norway over the international break and returned to Manchester for treatment. Julian Alvarez comes in, which is a pretty good back-up option. Elsewhere, City are flying with Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gunodgan having a big role to play with Phil Foden out following his appendix issue. As always, Kevin de Bruyne is the main man and will relish this chance to cut Arsenal’s lead atop the table.
Liverpool just can’t find consistency right now. They have improved defensively but they are a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of that and showed his frustration after their defeat at Bournemouth, which was their last Premier League game and was way back on March 11. He’s had a few weeks to stew over that loss and it will be intriguing to see what plan he has come up with. For this game as earlier this season Liverpool beat Man City 1-0 at Anfield by playing a front four which pinned City in.
Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup
OUT: Phil Foden (appendix removed), Erling Haaland (groin)
Your City XI 📋
XI | Ederson, Stones, Akanji, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Mahrez, Grealish, Alvarez
How to watch Arsenal vs Leeds live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online:Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & star players
For Arsenal, it’s going to continue to be a feast of talent in attacking positions as Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard are in the Premier League Player of the Year conversation and Gabriel Martinelli isn’t too far off. Perhaps Gabriel Jesus would be there, too, if he didn’t miss such a long stretch of time with injury but he’s fit and firing and Leeds has reason to worry about its back line. Leeds would love to see Maximillian Wober and Tyler Adams available but they are not and it will be incumbent about the attackers to make up for their absences. Weston McKennie and Marc Roca will be under the microscope today.
Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options
QUESTIONABLE: Thomas Partey (other), Kieran Tierney (calf). OUT: William Saliba (lower back), Mohamed Elneny (knee), Eddie Nketiah (ankle), Takehiro Tomiyasu (knee)
Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Maximillian Wober (thigh), Stuart Dallas (thigh), Adam Forshaw (groin), Tyler Adams (hamstring), Wilfried Gnonto (ankle).
Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?
As we head into the final months of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest and although Manchester United briefly surged into the picture, they look more likely to cement their spot as the third best team in the Premier League.
Uneven Tottenham are hanging in the top four battle and for the moment have hunted down Newcastle, while Liverpool is back in the Champions League picture after their return to form and Chelsea looks like a top six finish is their ceiling. For now.
Surprising Fulham, Brentford, and Brighton are all hanging around on the periphery with fine campaigns. Can one of them surprise and qualify for Europe?
Who are the candidates for relegation?
Southampton, West Ham, and Bournemouth currently occupy the relegation places but that keeps changing all the time and it is so tight at the bottom of the table.
Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Wolves, Leeds, Everton and Crystal Palace all find themselves within a few points of the bottom three as the race to stay in the Premier League intensifies. This could be the craziest relegation scrap in Premier League history.
Below you will find the latest Premier League table.
Remember: you can watch all 380 Premier League games across NBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and Peacock. We’ve got you covered.
Will Manchester City win yet another Premier League title? Can Arsenal push them all the way? Will Chelsea and Liverpool recover to finish in the top four? Can Manchester United’s new-look side surge into the title race? What about Tottenham? How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When will the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers
2:45pm: AFC Bournemouth v Brighton
2:45pm: Leeds v Nottingham Forest
2:45pm: Leicester vs Aston Villa
3pm: Chelsea vs Liverpool
Wednesday 5 April
3pm: Man United v Brentford
3pm: West Ham v Newcastle
Saturday 8 April
7:30am: Man Utd v Everton
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
Brentford v Newcastle
Fulham v West Ham
Leicester v AFC Bournemouth
Spurs v Brighton
Wolves v Chelsea
12:30pm: Southampton v Man City
Sunday 9 April
9am: Leeds v Crystal Palace
11:30am: Liverpool v Arsenal
Saturday 15 April
7:30am: Aston Villa v Newcastle
Chelsea v Brighton
Everton v Fulham
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Spurs v AFC Bournemouth
Wolves v Brentford
12:30pm: Man City v Leicester
Sunday 16 April
9am: West Ham v Arsenal
11:30am: Nottingham Forest v Man Utd
Monday 17 April
3pm: Leeds v Liverpool
Friday 21 April
3pm: Arsenal v Southampton
Saturday 22 April
7:30am: Fulham v Leeds
Brentford v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v Everton
Leicester v Wolves
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest
Sunday 23 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v West Ham
9am: Newcastle v Spurs
Postponed due to European action
Man Utd v Chelsea
Brighton v Man City
Tuesday 25 April
2:30pm: Wolves v Crystal Palace
2:45pm: Aston Villa v Fulham
2:45pm: Leeds v Leicester
Wednesday 26 April
2:30pm: Nottingham Forest v Brighton
2:45pm: Chelsea v Brentford
2:45pm: West Ham v Liverpool
3pm: Man City v Arsenal
Thursday 27 April
2:45pm: Everton v Newcastle
2:45pm: Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
3:15pm: Spurs v Man Utd
Saturday 29 April
7:30am: Crystal Palace v West Ham
Brentford v Nottingham Forest
Brighton v Wolves
12:30pm: Arsenal v Chelsea
Sunday 30 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v Leeds
9am: Fulham v Man City
9am: Man Utd v Aston Villa
9am: Newcastle v Southampton
11:30am: Liverpool v Spurs
Monday 1 May
3pm: Leicester v Everton
Wednesday 3 May
3pm: Liverpool v Fulham
3pm: Man City v West Ham
Thursday 4 May
3pm: Brighton v Man Utd
Saturday 6 May
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea
Spurs v Crystal Palace
Wolves v Aston Villa
12:30pm: Liverpool v Brentford
Sunday 7 May
9am: Man City v Leeds* subject to possible Champions League schedule
11:30am: Newcastle v Arsenal
2pm: West Ham v Man Utd
Monday 8 May
10am: Fulham v Leicester
12:30pm: Brighton v Everton
3pm: Nottingham Forest v Southampton
Saturday 13 May
Arsenal v Brighton
Aston Villa v Spurs
Brentford v West Ham
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth
Everton v Man City
Leeds v Newcastle
Leicester v Liverpool
Man Utd v Wolves
Southampton v Fulham
Saturday 20 May
AFC Bournemouth v Man Utd
Brighton v Southampton
Fulham v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Man City v Chelsea
Newcastle v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Spurs v Brentford
West Ham v Leeds
Wolves v Everton
Sunday 28 May
16:00 Arsenal v Wolves
16:00 Aston Villa v Brighton
16:00 Brentford v Man City
16:00 Chelsea v Newcastle
16:00 Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
16:00 Everton v AFC Bournemouth
16:00 Leeds v Spurs
16:00 Leicester v West Ham
16:00 Man Utd v Fulham
16:00 Southampton v Liverpool