02/03/2013 13:05 GMT | Updated 02/03/2013 13:10 GMT

Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: José Mourinho Beats Barça Again (PICTURES)

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.