Newcastle United’s trip to Leicester City will see Rafa Benitez make his return to a Premier League dugout in a permanent capacity for the first time since leaving Liverpool in 2010.
A clause in his recently-signed Toon contract – he’s free to leave if they’re relegated– may well mean his stint on Tyneside is shorter than the interim stint he did at Chelsea in 2012/13, but should he secure a positive result from this trip to the King Power Stadium, general expectations about his sides’ survival prospects are sure to inflate.
Since assuming control at Valencia in 2001/02, Benitez has made six dugout debuts and he is yet to see the occasion sullied with a loss.
True, every team he has managed since Los Che has been far superior to his current paymasters, but an easy fixture to start with is a luxury the Spaniard has rarely been afforded.
Indeed, his Mestalla bow, where he masterminded a 1-0 win, came against Real Madrid no less.
The going wasn’t quite so tough in Benitez’s maiden Liverpool match, though an away trip to Tottenham can hardly be considered straightforward. Still, he secured a point in his first Premier League outing, drawing 1-1.
At Inter Milan, he overseen a 3-1 toppling of Roma, then managed by current Foxes chief Claudio Ranieri, though home advantage undoubtedly helped his cause.
His short-lived and acrimonious Chelsea tenure started with a goalless draw at home to reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, in what was the first of three straight debut clean sheets.
The next came back in Serie A with Napoli, as Benitez’s Partenopei overcame Bologna in what was his second-simplest debut.
An away trip to Sporting Gijon provided what was undoubtedly the easiest debut for the 55-year-old, though his almighty Real Madrid side could only draw 0-0.
Despite the disappointing nature of the most recent opening encounter, Benitez’s record in such matches is splendid and it certainly lends favour to Newcastle’s hopes of bagging at least a point at Leicester.