As talk of the 2018 X Factor panel heats up, Cheryl may have a surprise in store for current panellist Nicole...

The X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger has made no secret of the fact that she has been asked to return 
for the next series. But Nicole, 39, is yet to sign on the dotted line, meaning she could still find herself booted off the judging panel – especially now Cheryl Cole is back on the scene.

Now understands Cheryl, 34, is still upset with the former Pussycat Doll after she was snapped partying with her ex-husband Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini over the summer.

A well-placed source says, ‘Cheryl’s told Simon Cowell she would come back, but the situation with Nicole is an obstacle. She 
is still fuming from when pictures came out of Nicole partying with JB in July, and now they can’t bear to be in the same room as each other.’

MORE: Simon Cowell drops the biggest hint yet that Cheryl Cole will rejoin the X Factor

The feud between Nicole and Cheryl ignited when the former Girls Aloud star, who is mum 
to eight-month-old Bear, called their first encounter ‘awkward’ after Nicole allegedly recited Cheryl’s song Promise This to her.

Nicole has since slammed Cheryl for exaggerating about their first meeting, saying during a recent interview that it’s been ‘made out to be something else and 
I don’t understand why. It’s been blown out of proportion.’

MORE: Too cute! Liam Payne delights fans with the first video of baby Bear

We’re told Nicole has never forgotten the incident and feels it wouldn’t be out of character for Cheryl to swoop in and steal a seat on the panel next year.
Our insider adds, ‘Nicole sees Cheryl as a real threat when it comes to taking her X Factor judging spot.’

We can certainly see why as head judge Simon, 58, said in October, ‘Let’s wait until the end of the show. Maybe [Nicole and Sharon] don’t want to come back. I wouldn’t rule anything out.’

Something tells us this feud won’t die down any time soon…