London - Chelsea's struggles in the Premier League this season have contributed to the emergence of the club's promising academy players, their England defender Gary Cahill has said.
Chelsea have spent most of the campaign in the bottom half of the table, but climbed to eighth after beating Norwich City 2-1 away on Tuesday, with full back Kenedy scoring after 39 seconds - the fastest goal in the league this term.
Attacking midfielder Bertrand Traore, who is also 20, was handed his first start and Cahill praised interim manager Guus Hiddink's commitment to youth since he returned to the club after Jose Mourinho was sacked in mid-December.
"The manager has shown faith in the young players," the centre back told the club's website (www.chelseafc.com).
"Kenedy and Traore are so tricky and so sharp with the way they like to manipulate the ball and turn. They make it difficult for defenders."
Chelsea's failure to promote talent from within has long been criticised. Captain John Terry was the last academy graduate to become a first-team regular but, under Dutchman Hiddink, a trio of youth-team players has broken into the squad.
Tuesday's game at Carrow Road was Kenedy's 13th appearance in all competitions and Traore's eighth, while midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has played nine times, signed a new long-term contract earlier this week.
"I've spoken highly of Ruben since he first started training with us, I think he's going to be a big player so it's great news," Cahill said.
"You've seen the three lads I've just mentioned there are heavily involved in the first team squad now. It's pleasing. They're there on merit. They're good enough to be involved and to play.