CELTIC’S Champions League clash with Barcelona on Wednesday may be a dead-rubber but Efe Ambrose is viewing his side’s trip to the Nou Camp as the perfect way to end a dream week on a personal level.
On what was a memorable day for the Nigerian internationalist last Friday, Ambrose welcomed his second child, Angela, into the world, then found out who his country will face at next summer’s World Cup, before scoring in Celtic’s 5-0 rout of Motherwell at Fir Park.
Ideally, he would have this week free to spend time getting to know the latest addition to the Ambrose family, but his steadfast professionalism, which saw him elect to face Juventus in last year’s Champions League rather than take a breather after the African Cup of Nations, means he will embrace the latest opportunity to pit himself against one of the greatest teams in the world.
“Friday was one of the best days of my life,” explained Ambrose. “It was something magical. It is something I cannot really express in words. I feel a little guilty now I have to leave them so soon and go to Barcelona. I feel like not going in a way, but it is my job and I have to be there to help my team.
“My family understand that. That is the situation in football. My wife understands that football pushes you every way. I think one of the best things I can give the baby as a present is to score a goal on the day she was born and then go and play against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. It is something she will always know about when she is older. When I tell her what happened, she will remember it for the rest of her life.”
Even though there is little at stake, Ambrose feels it is impossible not to be inspired by the chance to play in one of the most fabled stadiums in the world. He also feels Celtic have something of a score to settle after a last-minute Barca winner denied his side a point in the same fixture in October last year.
“We played well at the Nou Camp last season and were very unlucky to lose it late in the game,” he recalls. “It is a special game when you play in the Nou Camp at any time. We want to go there and put a smile on the face of our supporters. It’s not about getting our pride back or anything like that, it’s about enjoying the experience and, hopefully, getting something out of the game. We are playing very well at the moment, the last two games against Hearts and Motherwell have been really good.
“At last we have started taking most of the chances we create. There is a big difference in the team now. Of course, it is going to be a different ball game in the Nou Camp.”
Meanwhile, Ambrose is happy with the group his Nigeria side have landed for the World Cup in Brazil, even if it has thrown up yet another showdown with Argentina and Barca superstar Lionel Messi. “I watched the World Cup draw in the team hotel on Friday afternoon with my team-mates. It is a good draw for us with Argentina, Bosnia and Iran. I think we have a chance to get through to the second round. Every time there is a draw, I seem to be up against Lionel Messi. I think I can stop him again, like we did at Celtic Park last year. We didn’t have to play against him this season with Celtic against Barcelona because he was injured, but we did well against him last season.”