Alex Cochrane is adamant Hearts are a much stronger side than the one that lost 4-0 at home to Rangers four months ago.
The Jambos were hammered by the Gers at the start of October when they were hindered by a spate of injuries to key men and the gruelling demands of competing in the Europa Conference League group stage.
As the two teams prepare to meet in Gorgie on Wednesday, however, the Jambos are buoyed by a 10-game unbeaten run since a 1-0 loss at Ibrox just before the World Cup break.
“We’ve definitely progressed (since Rangers’ last visit to Tynecastle),” said defender Cochrane. “That wasn’t a good day for us but I think since then we’ve put it right through the season.
“You could see when we went to Ibrox a couple of months ago that the game was a lot closer. On another day we could have created a few more chances. But this time we’re going in with confidence, which is always important.
“We know it’s going to be tough because they’re a very good team but we know we’re a good team as well. We’ve got a quality squad and there’s more to come from us this season.”
Cochrane joined Hearts on loan from Brighton at the start of last season and then made the move permanent last summer. He feels the team is now functioning better than at any point in his 18 months in Edinburgh.
“I think this is the strongest we’ve been since I’ve been here,” he said. “We’ve got a good rhythm at the moment. Since I’ve been here I’ve seen the progression of the squad and it’s definitely good.”
Despite their impressive recent form which has taken them clear in third place in the cinch Premiership, Hearts are still 16 points adrift of second-placed Rangers.
Cochrane feels his team must beat the Gers and Celtic more regularly, and slip up less often away from home against the other sides in the league if they are to get closer to the Glasgow pair.
“It’s games like this (against Rangers) we need to win, and then it comes down to tough away games like Livingston on Sunday,” he said, referring to last weekend’s 0-0 draw.
“We got a point, and we’ll take it because it’s a tough place to go, but if we want to close the gap to the top two we need to win those games.”