The locations are only a few miles apart, but Scott McDonald will only truly understand how far he has come when he walks out at Celtic Park on Wednesday night and hears the Champions' League music before shaking hands with Barcelona's stellar cast. Exactly 12 months ago, the little Australian was appearing in front of less than 4,000 people as he played for Motherwell against St Mirren at Love Street, on the same night that Celtic were hosting Milan in front of a worldwide television audience. McDonald has had a remarkable journey since then.
His £750,000 move from Motherwell last summer was seen as a squad signing, given the millions of pounds Gordon Strachan was lavishing elsewhere. However, McDonald has become the main man:his 23 goals have made himthe first name on the Celtic manager's teamsheet. He scored the dramatic last-minute winner when Milan returned to the east end of Glasgow in October – this time as holders – in the group stages and is eager to help Celtic succeed where they failed last season, by progressing beyond the last 16 of the competition.
"We got to the last 16 last year and the boys held their own," McDonald reflects. "They were unlucky to go out to one goal against the team that went on to win it. Barcelona know they will have a tough time against us."
McDonald saw nothing of that first leg with Milan. The Scottish Premier League had rearranged the St Mirren-Motherwell fixture for the same night. There was a ghostly silence in Paisley, while 60,000 voices pierced the Glasgow night sky just along the M8. However, McDonald was glued to his television a fortnight later when Celtic held Milan to another 0-0 draw in the San Siro, before losing to Kaka's extra-time goal.
Now it is his turn. "This is a massive one for us," said the 24-year-old. "Just look at the quality of players that they have – it is just fantastic to be in there. Playing against Barcelona was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to a club like this. You want to show people that you can compete against the best players in the world. I'm looking forward to it.
"There is no way that we are considering ourselves as there just to make up the numbers. The players and the manager would not tolerate the thought that we are going to just let Barcelona ease their way past us into the next round. We want to go and enjoy the experience, but we also feel we've nothing to lose and we'll be aiming to cause a bit of an upset."
The sight of Frank Rijkaard's celebrity-packed side is nothing new at Celtic Park. It is the third time in four years that the Dutchman has brought his team there. They lost in March 2004 when Celtic knocked Barcelona out of the Uefa Cup, and then inflicted revenge six months later, when a certain Henrik Larsson swapped sides and helped the Catalans to a 3-1 Champions' League group victory that remains the only blemish in 17 home games for Celtic in this competition.
"It says much about how successful Celtic have been in recent seasons that some fans were a bit blasé about drawing Barcelona," said McDonald. "Whoever comes to Celtic Park knows they are in for a tough game. The results here over the past few years have been superb against some top-quality European sides. There are not too many of our boys left from the Barça games played in 2004, so we're all excited."
Barcelona, of course, visited the other side of Glasgow just a few months ago. After their visit to Ibrox, Lionel Messi claimed Rangers had played "anti-football" to earn a 0-0 draw,but McDonald says Celtic havea different philosophy.
"I think that our supporters would not let us play anything but attacking football," he said. "They would not stand for us playing 11 behind the ball and just sitting there. If we did that I think they'd go crazy. They pay good money to come and watch us play attacking football.
"We want to go out there and score goals to win games. Sometimes we've left ourselves open too much and conceded but it works in our favour to get something at home and then haveto protect it in the Nou Camp."Reuse content