Benitez’s Newcastle start Championship campaign at Fulham

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Chelsea's interim manager Rafa Benitez looks on before their English Premier League soccer match against Southampton at St. Mary's Stadium in Southampton, England March 30, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER HEADSHOT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR "LIVE" SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS

LONDON: Rafael Benitez’s bid to lead Newcastle back into the Premier League will start with an opening weekend trip to Fulham as the Championship fixtures for the 2016-17 season were revealed on Wednesday.

Benitez was unable to stop Newcastle crashing out of the top-flight in his brief spell as manager in the closing weeks of the season.

But the former Real Madrid and Liverpool boss ignored a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave St James’ Park in the event of relegation and has set his sights on promotion from the second tier.

Newcastle will be under pressure to secure an immediate return to the elite and they kick off at Fulham’s Craven Cottage on Friday August 5.

Aston Villa were also relegated to the Championship and have undergone major changes since their first demotion in 29 years.

Villa, now owned by China’s Tony Xia and managed by former Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo, start with a testing trip to play-off runners-up Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday August 7.

Norwich City, the third club relegated from the Premier League, make their second tier return at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday August 6.

Elsewhere on the opening weekend, former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam will make his debut as Reading boss at home to Preston, Garry Monk will take charge of his first Leeds match at QPR, while Derby manager Nigel Pearson starts at home to Brighton.

Burton, playing their first ever season in the second tier, have a short journey to Nottingham Forest, Birmingham host Cardiff and new Rotherham boss Alan Stubbs has a home game with Wolves.

Bristol City host League One champions Wigan, Huddersfield are at home to Brentford and promoted Barnsley go to Ipswich.

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