ONLY the bold or the foolish would ever dare to predict less turbulent times ahead for Rangers but, having entered a period of relative off-field calm, the focus for once has returned to the football.

"I know, it's great," said Ally McCoist, almost disbelievingly. "Last week was totally about football as well which was brilliant. It will never catch on."

McCoist's media conferences over the past few years have become almost like a doctor doing the ward rounds, the Rangers manager giving updates on the health of the club and trying to offer a positive-as-possible prognosis on what the future might hold. While most managers get to discuss tactics, transfers and the treatment table, McCoist has spoken of little else beyond the latest financial predicament, boardroom reshuffles, and his concerns for what lies ahead, all the while longing to discuss more prosaic, on-field topics.

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That wish has been temporarily granted. Rangers are back in action tonight and for once it is a match of some consequence as they take on Dunfermline Athletic in the last 16 of the William Hill Scottish Cup. It is difficult to avoid the temptation to look beyond this tie to what could possibly lie in wait for Rangers in the quarter-final draw. Should this weekend's matches go to form - and, of course, there are no guarantees of that - there should be five SPFL Premiership teams, including Celtic, joining them in the hat. You don't need to be Carol Vorderman to appreciate that the percentages of Rangers then drawing one of them would be fairly high.

That first meeting between the Ibrox side and top-flight opposition for a year would be highly anticipated, and a chance for McCoist and his players to show they have improved significantly from 12 months ago when Dundee United scored three goals against them without reply.

"I'm hopeful we're better prepared than a year ago," said McCoist. "Obviously we've got nearly an entirely new squad with the additions we've made. I'm hoping that one of the important changes is that boys have got experience and success at cup level.

"You look at Cammy [Bell], Big Jon [Daly], Blacky [Ian Black], Lee McCulloch, and boys like that have had varying degrees of cup success. Last year we had [Neil] Alexander and McCulloch but I didn't feel we were as strong. I'd hope we are stronger, and obviously we should be stronger with the players we've signed.

"I'd be very hopeful that would give us a better opportunity to go on a cup run. But you need to take every tie on its merits. We'll have to earn the right to get into the quarter-finals. If we can win on Friday it obviously takes us a step closer."

Having lost just one match all season - their League Cup exit to Forfar Athletic - Rangers are odds-on favourites to steer a course past Dunfermline. Jim Jefferies' side are their closest rivals in a rather one-sided League One championship chase but have already lost heavily to Rangers twice this season.

"A home tie in a cup is all you can really ask for," added McCoist. "It is also against a team we have beaten twice. But they believe, and we believe, they have performed well against us, in the game at Ibrox in particular. They were well up for that occasion. Reading one or two of their quotes after the game, and since, they believe they were unlucky. The game finished 3-1. That is their opinion. Judging by those comments they will certainly be ready for the game. But so will we."

"I thought they took us a little bit by surprise perhaps by the way they came out in the game at Ibrox in terms of their tempo and their natural aggression to play the game. I thought once we adapted to it and, in the second game in particular, we handled it a lot better."

McCoist believes Rangers' 4-0 victory at East End Park as their best performance of the season and would take a repeat tonight. "It was certainly as well as we have played this season. We will settle for nothing else. A cup game is a one-off and we want to do well in the cup. This is a great opportunity to go into the last eight. If somebody could offer me the same level of performance that we gave against Dunfermline at East End Park I would settle for that."

Bilel Mohsni will be available for tonight's tie despite being sent off last weekend - he will serve a two-game suspension in the league - and McCoist revealed he had spoken to the defender about his ill-discipline.

"We had a good chat on Monday or Tuesday and looked at the video. Obviously he knows he was completely wrong and accepted it, and apologised to the boys. So it's closed now. We have to move on from that disappointing episode but everyone has to learn from it - not just Bilel. In that particular incident we were down to 10 men and made life very difficult for ourselves. That was very unfortunate."