Hertha Berlin star Kevin-Prince Boateng is hoping to make his experience count in the derby against Union on Saturday. - © O.Behrendt via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Contrast
Hertha Berlin star Kevin-Prince Boateng is hoping to make his experience count in the derby against Union on Saturday. - © O.Behrendt via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Contrast
bundesliga

Kevin-Prince Boateng on the Union-Hertha Berlin derby: "It's going to be crazy"

Hertha Berlin midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng hopes his side can kickstart a strong end to the year by taking the honours in this weekend's derby against Union.

Hertha cross the German capital to face their local rivals on Saturday evening, hoping to draw to within a point of the home side by recording their fifth win of the campaign.

The visitors are thirteenth in the table and desperate to close the gap on Union Berlin, who start the weekend five places above Hertha but winless in three games.

"I don't think we need to talk about it so much," Boateng said, when asked by reporters about Hertha's approach to the derby. "Because you know exactly what's going to happen. You're going to walk on that pitch and it's going to be crazy.

"We just need to be prepared for that craziness, because I don't want us to just wake up and realise we're playing when 50 minutes are over and maybe they've already scored a goal… and if we are ready, then I'm not scared. I have no doubts that we can win this game - or [that] we will win that game."

Watch: Why the Berlin derby is special

Promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in May 2019, Union have been performing better than Hertha over the past two seasons. Urs Fischer led them to seventh and Europe last term, while Hertha looked in relegation trouble before a late-season surge got them to 14th.

Boateng, who returned to his hometown club from Italian side Monza this summer, insists that Hertha are still the main attraction in Berlin.

"I can understand [the hype] because this team had a good run," the 34-year-old said of Union. "For two years now they're playing great football. They had some success… but the big club is Hertha Berlin.

"But we prepare like every other game," he continued. "We're ready to go out there and try to win the game but it's going to change when we enter the stadium. Definitely, because we're going to understand that this thing is for real. I just hope we're going to deliver and keep the three points on our side of Berlin."

Watch: Learn why Boateng returned to Hertha

Hertha won the first meeting of the sides last season, coming from behind for a 3-1 success at their Olympiastadion in December. Union led in the second match in April as well, but a Dodi Lukebakio penalty got the visitors a vital point on Matchday 27.

Union have had the better start again this season, with Hertha slowly recovering after losing their opening three league matches and five of their first seven. Recent victories against Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Mönchengladbach have restored confidence, however, and in their last outing only a 90th-minute equaliser from ex-Union midfielder Robert Andrich denied Hertha all three points against Bayer Leverkusen.

As a result, Boateng is convinced that Pal Dardai's team can improve on their "rollercoaster" season by pushing on before the winter break.

"We've got six more games," the former Ghana international said of his team's schedule before Christmas. "They're all tough games but I think we can win four - and that should be a target. We should focus on winning the derby because that would give a push to the team, to our fans, and to the whole club.

Hertha Berlin veteran Kevin-Prince Boateng is back at the club where he made his pro debut in August 2005. - IMAGO / Matthias Koch

"If we can win that game, then we have to try to take the positive wave with us. Because against Leverkusen as well - we played a good game, we were up 'til the last minute, then we [let in] this stupid goal. So this is just moments [where] we have to think about the positive: 'we showed that we can do it - let's do that again every single week.'

"I just hope we're going to win that derby because it's so important for the mental building of the next weeks. They're going to be tough, and we want to go and have a kind of peaceful Christmas. Just go into Christmas, celebrate with your family, and knowing that you can come back and you're not coming back to a crisis or criticism or whatever."

The former AC Milan, Barcelona and Tottenham man is happy to take some of the pressure off his teammates in any way he can, and to pass on his vast experience to make sure younger players reach their full potential. He cites UEFA Euro 2020 winner Manuel Locatelli and Borussia Dortmund's Marius Wolf as players who have benefitted from his advice in the past, and current Hertha teammates Maximilian Mittelstädt and Marco Richter among the players he has looked out for this season. As for Hertha itself, Boateng is sure that more consistency is on the way.

Watch: Leverkusen denied Hertha on Matchday 11

"I think we need to stabilise our performances because sometimes we perform as an unbelievable team, so hard to beat," he said. "And then the week after we've got big holes in the defence, we don't defend the same way, we're not aggressive.

"We need to stabilise that mentality to know [that] every Saturday it's war. We have to try to work on that, and then it will be a positive season for us because if every weekend you deliver and you know it's war time… then we are a very difficult team to beat."

That certainly hasn't always been the case over the past two years, and Boateng accepts that Union have had the chance to lord it over Hertha recently. But he also feels that his club have finally got the right mix of players.

"I think the biggest issue was finding a team who understands the DNA of Hertha - not of Berlin," said Boateng, who won the DFB Cup with Eintracht Frankfurt in 2017-2018. "Because people love the city, there were a lot of players who came to sign here for the city. Because they enjoyed it, because it's a beautiful city, there's a lot of stuff to do."

Boateng, who began his professional career with Hertha, says that is starting to change - although the full benefits are only now coming to pass.

"One thing you see is the team and the whole club, they're sticking together - they're trying to find the best path to success," the former Borussia Dortmund and Schalke star explained.

"It wasn't like that in the past because, like I said, you have to identify yourself with the club and not with the city. That's what we're trying to do. That's why they got me back on the team - because I lived that. My heart is white and blue since I was born. So that's the main issue, and that's what we're trying to do. And I think the results will come sooner or later."

Watch: Hertha drew on their last visit to Union 

Will they get one on Saturday evening in southeast Berlin? Union had gone 21 Bundesliga matches unbeaten at home before their 5-2 loss to champions Bayern Munich in their last league match at the Stadion An Der Alten Försterei. An away win for Hertha won't come easy, then, but Boateng knows exactly what will be required.

"The most important is to be ready," he said. "To be ready for that battle. To go into every conflict, whatever, and win this little one percent that's going to change the game. Who's going to win that little one percent is going to win the game."