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X Factor returns: Cheryl Cole back after malaria

Cheryl Cole has spoken of her excitment at returning to the X Factor after her bout of malaria as the show returns to television screens this weekend.

The seventh series of the hit show - the final got over 19m viewers last year - attracted 200,000 applicants and the live auditions were watched by over 70,000.

Miss Cole contracted malaria after going to Tanzania on holiday in June but it was only discovered after she collapsed during a photoshoot.

The illness meant she missed the audition and "boot camp" rounds for X Factor but will appear on screen at the "Judges' Houses" stage, where a longlist of contestants "live" with the judges to be whittled down in glamorous locations.

She was temporarily replaced by a succession of stand-in female judges, comprising the singers Natalie Imbruglia, Pixie Lott and Katy Perry, as well as Geri Halliwell, of the Spice Girls, and Nicole Scherzinger, of the Pussycat Dolls.

In a video to fans, Miss Cole said she was "absolutely gutted that I missed the last auditions and boot camp but I'm really excited to see what Simon, Louis and Nicole have chosen".

Early indications of the series suggest it will be less harsh with Simon Cowell showing a warmer side.

The X Factor is on ITV1 at 7.30pm on Saturday.

© Telegraph.co.uk