Mata extends Valencia contract

MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:

Valencia have agreed an improved contract for Spain winger Juan Mata which will tie him to the club until 2014, they said in a statement after a board meeting.

The 22-year-old can celebrate in front of his own fans when Deportivo La Coruna visit the Mestalla on Sunday. The club will be looking to improve on fourth place in La Liga.

Valencia are without suspended top scorer Aritz Aduriz.

After a week where he collected his second consecutive World Player of the Year and scored a hat-trick in the King's Cup, Barcelona's Lionel Messi called for coach Pep Guardiola to commit himself to the club beyond the end of the season.

"He can renew his contract when he likes, but I hope he does and that he stays," Messi told reporters. "It's difficult to imagine a Barca without Guardiola."

The leaders host Malaga on Sunday.

Barca's Argentine defender Gabriel Milito is close to agreeing a move to Malaga, who have signed five new players so far in the January transfer window, local media have reported.

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema will be keen to impress in order to hang on to his place away to Almeria on Sunday, after the club said they were looking to sign a striker on loan until the end of the season.

Second-from-bottom Almeria are the only side left in La Liga yet to win a home game this season.

Third-placed Villarreal, who are unbeaten at the Madrigal, are battling a growing list of injuries ahead of Saturday's visit of Osasuna.

Spain winger Santi Cazorla is out for two weeks with a muscle strain, joining long-term injury victims Marcos Senna, Nilmar and Angel Lopez. Spain defender Carlos Marchena is set to return after a month and a half on the sidelines.

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea will have tests on a hand injury picked up in his side's 3-1 King's Cup quarter-final first leg defeat at Real Madrid on Thursday.

They host Real Mallorca on Monday.

Basement side Real Zaragoza, who are at home to Levante on Saturday, are struggling to pay their players and after media speculation that the squad were considering strike action captain Gabi moved to deny the claims.

"It is a difficult economic situation for the whole of Spanish football, and it is here too," he said. "We are speaking to the president and we think this week or next week there will be a solution, and there won't be any problems."


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