NEWCASTLE UNITED have inquired about the availability of Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva as they look to strengthen their midfield resources ahead of their return to the Premier League.

The Magpies were handed an opening-day date with Tottenham when the fixtures for the 2017-18 season were released yesterday morning, and their manager, Rafael Benitez, has already begun the process of trying to add to the squad that secured promotion last season.

He is keen to sign at least a couple of midfielders this summer, and has identified Lucas a viable option in a deep-lying role.

Last season, Newcastle played with either Jack Colback or Isaac Hayden alongside Jonjo Shelvey at the base of their midfield, but Benitez is keen to secure an experienced alternative to help protect his side’s defence in the top-flight.

He boasts extensive experience of working with Lucas as he was the Liverpool manager when the Brazilian signed at Anfield in a £5m move from Gremio in the summer of 2007.

Benitez handed Lucas his Premier League debut, and made the midfielder a regular in his preferred starting line-up in the following campaign.

Now 30, Lucas made 24 Premier League appearances last season, playing at both centre-half and central midfield, but he does not feature in Jurgen Klopp’s long-term plans and has been told to seek alternative employers this summer.

With one year of his current contract remaining, he is likely to cost around £4m, but while he has been linked with a possible return to Gremio in his homeland, his wages could rule out a switch to South America.

Newcastle would be a desirable destination, and while Mike Ashley has previously ruled out signing players in their 30s, he is willing to be more flexible in the wake of his side’s relegation two seasons ago.

Signing Lucas on a short-term deal would be regarded as a way of increasing the level of Premier League experience within the Newcastle squad without the need for a major outlay.

At the other end of the age scale, the Magpies are also hoping to sign Tammy Abraham on a season-long loan from Chelsea, but as well as facing competition from Brighton, United will also have to fend off Swansea City.

The Swans have registered their interest with Chelsea, and having failed to tie up a loan deal prior to Abraham’s departure for the European Under-21 Championships in the Czech Republic, the Magpies now find themselves facing an increasingly competitive battle for one of their leading targets.

Abraham spent last season on loan at Bristol City, and having linked up with Aidy Boothrody’s Under-21 squad earlier this month, the 19-year-old wants to shelve all talk about his future until the end of the European Championships, which begin tomorrow.

“I haven’t spoken with Chelsea yet,” said the forward. “I am focusing on this tournament, so the discussions will happen after. I’m not too sure (about where he will be playing next season) – hopefully it will be in the Premier League.

“After this season I need to take myself to the next level. That’s the type of person I am – I always want to do better, I always want to do more. So going into the new season, my aim will be to top this one.”

The publication of the fixture list means Newcastle fans can begin to plan for next season, with their opening-day meeting with Spurs evoking memories of the 5-1 victory that marked the final appearance of their last spell in the top-flight.

There was little to play for in May 2015, with Newcastle already having been relegated and Spurs’ title challenge having fizzled out as Leicester were crowned champions, and Benitez accepts things will be markedly different on the weekend of August 12.

“It’s a great start at home to Tottenham and a really exciting first game at St James’ Park for our fans to enjoy,” said Benitez. “We will all have extra motivation for that game, but it will be a very tough start too because Spurs showed how good they are last season.

“Of course they were our last Premier League opponents here too, which was a memorable match for everyone, but this time around it will be completely different.”

After hosting Spurs, Newcastle embark on a run of five games that will see them take on Huddersfield, West Ham, Swansea, Stoke and Brighton.

On paper, that looks like an inviting way to start the season, and the Magpies will be targeting a high early points haul before some of the Premier League’s ‘big boys’ loom into view.

“After Spurs, I think we have a good run of games,” said Benitez. “I’m pleased to see it’s quite a balanced list in terms of the teams we’re up against.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle have announced a pre-season game at Scottish Premier League side Hearts on Friday, July 14 (7.45pm). It is the third friendly to be added to Newcastle’s pre-season schedule, following trips to Preston on Saturday, July 22 (3pm) and Bradford on Wednesday, July 26 (7.30pm).