An under-strength Real Madrid beat Barcelona for a second time to finish a great week ahead of their much-anticipated Champions League return leg with Manchester United on Tuesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso were all absent from the starting XI for the club's second Clásico in five days, as goals from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos gave them a third win against Barça from six matches this season.

Madrid's win has cut the gap between them and their adversaries to 13 points after another morale boosting victory over the Catalans at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The match's money moment however came when an apoplectic Victor Valdés was sent off for arguing with the referee.

victor valdes

Victor Valdés was furious with the referee

Barcelona put out an almost identical side to the one that lost on Tuesday, with the exception of Cesc Fàbregas and the injured Xavi Hernandez, who made way for Thiago Alcantara and David Villa.

Despite Madrid having the weaker side out, they were the first to draw blood after six minutes. Morata picked the ball up on the left wing, beat a placid Dani Alves and delivered a low ball across the box which Benzema tapped in from just a few yards out at the far post to give Madrid the lead.

Barça sought an immediate response but created few chances despite their superior possession. However, they were level on 17 minutes.

Dani Alves delivered a low through-ball into the path of Messi after the Madrid defence and goalkeeper Diego Lopez all hesitated. Unchallenged, the Argentinian drove into the box and shot into the bottom corner to equalise.

It was Messi's 39th goal of the season in the Primera Division and his 18th in a Clasico, drawing him level with fellow Argentine Alfredo Di Stefano as the player to score the most goals in this fixture.

Morata and then Messi both failed to score from decent openings, both players firing their shots straight into the hands of Valdés and Lopez respectively. The 20-year-old Morata then missed another good chance shortly before half-time, heading a cross by Modric into the side-netting.

cristiano ronaldo

Ronaldo came close to scoring his 12th Clásico goal

The opening stages of the second period were largely uneventful but the double substitution of Ronaldo and Khedira for Kaka and Benzema lifted the Bernabeu crowd, who had previously failed to make a lot of noise in a rare afternoon kick-off and with so many key players missing.

The Portuguese forced a save from Valdés with a stinging free-kick and then a few minutes later shot into the side-netting.

Morata then had the best chance of the second half, receiving a brilliant pass by Pepe with just Valdés to beat, but his shot was pushed out by the goalkeeper - who was wearing the captain's armband in the absence of Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez.

Ronaldo then headed a free-kick by Modric just over the bar but Madrid's pressure soon paid off. Modric sent in a corner and Sergio Ramos rose above the Barca defence to head the ball just under the bar and into the back of the net on 81 minutes.

Ronaldo almost doubled the advantage when his powerfully struck free-kick hit the bar, and at the other end Barcelona were denied a penalty when Adriano went over after a challenge by Ramos.

Madrid stood firm to hold on for the three points but there was still drama even after the final whistle had been blown, with Valdés arguing with the referee and receiving a second yellow card, followed by a red.

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  • Real Madrid players celebrate after Sergio Ramos, partly seen scored the winning goal against Barcelona during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. Real Madrid won the game 2-1.(AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Sergio Ramos

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, unseen, celebrates his goal with team mates during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Victor Valdes

    Barcelona's goalkeeper Victor Valdes, 3rd from right argues with the referee after the final whistle during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. Valdes was expelled. Real Madrid won the game 2-1. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Victor Valdes

    Barcelona's goalkeeper Victor Valdes, left argues with the referee after the final whistle during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. Valdes was expelled. Real Madrid won the game 2-1. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Real Madrid fans celebrate their team's winning goal against Barcelona during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Sergio Ramos

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Sergio Ramos

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, centre, celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Victor Valdes

    Barcelona's goalkeeper Victor Valdes, centre right is shown a red card after the final whistle during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. Real Madrid won the game 2-1. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Victor Valdes

    Barcelona's goalkeeper Victor Valdes, left is shown a yellow card after the final whistle during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. Valdes continued to argue with the referee and was shown a red card seconds later. Real Madrid won the game 2-1. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Sergio Ramos

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, left scores the winning goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Sergio Ramos, Jose Mourinho

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, unseen, celebrates his goal with team mates and coach Jose Mourinho from Portugal, right, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Sergio Ramos, Jose Mourinho

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, unseen, celebrates his goal with team mates during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, right, celebrates his goal with Luka Modric from Croatia, left, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, right, celebrates his goal with Luka Modric from Croatia, left, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi

    Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal, left, and FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina, right,, gesture during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Sergio Ramos

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos celebrates after scoring against Barcelona during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Sergio Ramos

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Daniel Alves, Pepe

    Barcelona's Daniel Alves from Brazil, left, falls in front of Real Madrid's Pepe from Portugal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric

    Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, left celebrates with Luka Modric from Croatia after scoring Real Madrid's second goal against Barcelona during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Fabio Coentrao, Pepe

    Real Madrid's Fabio Coentrao of Portugal, left falls as his Team Mate Pepe from Portugal, centre jumps for a high ball during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Pepe, Javier Mascherano

    Real Madrid's Pepe from Portugal, left is tackled by Barcelona's Javier Mascherano from Argentina during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Andres Iniesta,, Pepe

    Barcelona's Andres Iniesta, left is held by Real Madrid's Pepe from Portugal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Pepe

    Real Madrid's Pepe from Portugal, 2nd left takes the ball past 3 Barcelona players during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Pepe

    Real Madrid's Pepe from Portugal, centre takes the ball past 3 Barcelona players during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Karim Benzema

    Real Madrid's Karim Benzema from France, second right, celebrates his goal with team mates during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Jose Mourinho

    Real Madrid's coach Jose Mourinho from Portugal gestures during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Karim Benzema

    Real Madrid's Karim Benzema from France celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Lionel Messi, Fabio Coentrao

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina, left, celebrates his goal Real Madrid's Fabio Coentrao from Portugal, right, gestures, right, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina, left, celebrates his goal with Daniel Alves from Brazil, right, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina, centre, scores his goal under pressure of Sergio Ramos, left, and Raphael Varane from France, right, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos,

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina, right, scores his goal under pressure of Sergio Ramos, left, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Pepe

    Real Madrid's Pepe from Portugal reacts after Barcelona scored during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Karim Benzema, Jose Maria Callejon , Alvaro Morata

    Real Madrid's Karim Benzema from France, left celebrates with Jose Maria Callejon, centre and Alvaro Morata after scoring against Barcelona during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Kaka, Pedro Rodriguez

    Real Madrid's Kaka from Brazil, left is tackled by Barcelona's Pedro Rodriguez during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)

  • Karim Benzema, Jose Maria Callejon

    Real Madrid's Karim Benzema from France, left celebrates with Jose Maria Callejon after scoring against Barcelona during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul White)