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 By Dave Usher

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson 9/10 vs. Brighton as he begins to peak at right time

Liverpool smash Brighton 4-0 to ensure Champions League next season as Real Madrid wait in Kiev next weekend.
After locking up a top-four spot, Liverpool legend Steve Nicol breaks down their routine win over Brighton and the Reds' season as a whole.
After locking up a top-four spot, Liverpool legend Steve Nicol breaks down their routine win over Brighton and the Reds' season as a whole.
Following his record-breaking season, the FC crew debate whether Mohamed Salah has surpassed Neymar as the best player after Messi and Ronaldo.

Fears that Liverpool might continue to make hard work of securing their place in the Premier League top four were swept away fairly quickly as the Reds tore into Brighton from the start. They led 2-0 at half-time, but it should have been five or six. Two more goals were added after the break as Jurgen Klopp's club signed off their season in style with a 4-0 win.

Positives

It was vitally important that the team performed well and showed that the last few lacklustre performances were merely a result of the heavy fixture load, and they certainly did that. The players were full of energy and looked sharp throughout. The perfect way to prepare for the Champions League final in two weeks.

Negatives

Nothing negative at Anfield, but Leicester conceding five goals at Spurs meant the Reds finished fourth and not third. Not a big deal, but a little irritating.

Manager rating out of 10

10 -- With James Milner ruled out, Jurgen Klopp elected to go all-out attack and sprung a surprise by including young frontman Dominic Solanke in the starting lineup. It worked a treat as Solanke provided a goal and an assist. It was a day when everything Klopp did paid off handsomely, as two of his substitutes -- Adam Lallana and Danny Ings -- helped to create the fourth goal for Andy Robertson.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Loris Karius, 7 -- Had absolutely nothing to do, but modelled the new dazzling yellow goalkeeper strip with aplomb.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 7 -- Steady enough at both ends of the field. Joined in with the attack but didn't have too many opportunities to show off his crossing ability.

DF Dejan Lovren, 8 -- Set the tone early with some aggressive front-foot defending and was dominant throughout, even popping up at the Kop end to power home a header to make it 2-0.

DF Virgil van Dijk, 8 -- Makes the game look so easy. Not only does he win his headers, he directs them into the path of his teammates to turn defence into attack. Just a class act, and Liverpool's defensive record since he arrived suggest that they would have been a couple of places higher in the table had they managed to land him last summer instead of having to wait until January.

DF Andrew Robertson, 8 -- Just your typical bog-standard Robertson display: tenacious, energetic, composed. Created a goal for Lovren with a terrific cross and topped it all with his first goal for the club. What a signing he's been.

Jordan Henderson of Liverpool  with Anthony Knockaert of Brighton Hove Albion
Jordan Henderson is rounding into the best form of his season with the Champions League final two weeks away.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 8 -- Outstanding. Covered every blade of grass and showed great skill and composure in possession, while intelligently covering for his teammates and snuffing out Brighton counterattacks.

MF Jordan Henderson, 9 -- Much the same as Wijnaldum, only better. His passing was crisp and purposeful throughout, and the captain has really stepped it up as the season has reached the business end. Liverpool need him to lead by example in Kiev in two weeks.

FW Sadio Mane, 7 -- A mixed bag from the Senegal man. He was extremely sharp and caused Brighton all sorts of problems, but his end product was somewhat erratic. Should have squared to Roberto Firmino but shot at the keeper, then should have gone himself but squared to Mohamed Salah. One of those days, but he looks to be in his best form of the season right now.

FW Mohamed Salah, 8 -- After three games without a goal, it was business as usual for the prolific Egyptian, who opened the scoring with a record-setting 32nd Premier League goal of the season. He almost had another but was denied first by the keeper and then by a defender on the line. Turned provider in the second half by laying on a goal for Solanke.

FW Roberto Firmino, 8 -- Didn't get a goal but enjoyed himself in a deeper role than usual. Plenty of nice touches, great skill and lung-bursting runs. Given a well-earned rest when he was replaced by Lallana.

FW Dominic Solanke, 8 -- From last week's ratings: "Difficult to escape the feeling that he's never going to score". A classic reverse jinx! Took his goal brilliantly and produced a promising all-round performance, including an assist for Salah. Well done, young man.

Substitutes

MF Adam Lallana, NR -- Looked lively following yet another injury layoff. His return is most timely as Liverpool might need a contribution from him off the bench in Kiev.

FW Danny Ings, NR -- Lively cameo and played a key role in Robertson's goal.

FW Ben Woodburn, NR -- Given a late run out and did OK. Not really much time to make an impression, though.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and the founder of LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.

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