By Gabriel Tan in Bangkok
The War Elephants, who are hosts of their group, are widely expected to finish in the top two and qualify for the semi-finals of the competition.
And while a game against Philippines used to be viewed as a fairly straightforward encounter, things are not the same anymore given the huge strides they have taken in recent years.
Back in 2010, the Azkals made it all the way to the last four while Thailand were embarassingly eliminated in the group stage, and Schafer admits his side will have to be wary on Saturday at the Rajamangala Stadium.
"I saw Philippines play Singapore [in a friendly back in September]," he told ESPNSTAR. "They are a very good team.
"Looking at the names in their squad, they have several players playing in Germany and one in the Bundesliga.
"They are very strong and I know they're quick - they play like an English team."
The player who currently plies his trade in Germany's top flight that Schafer referred to is Hoffenheim's Stephan Schrock, who is set to miss out along with Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge due to club commitments.
The German tactician admits his side's chances of victory will be bolstered by the duo's absence, but is also hoping the Thai fans play their part come Saturday.
"It's clearly a bonus [that Schrock and Etheridge aren't available," Schafer added.
"But I hope in our stadium, our supporters will come and help us. It's not going to be easy."
The former Cameroon boss also revealed preparations for the competition had been far from perfect, but believes his players are all ready for their bid to win their first regional title since 2002.
"Preparations have been ongoing for the last three weeks," he said.
"It has been a bit difficult because many players came to us with injuries, but it's okay.
"The team are in good spirits, everybody wants to win the Suzuki Cup although it's not easy as the other teams are very good.
"We have worked hard for the last three weeks and now we have to concentrate on our first game this Saturday against Philippines.
"I think we have a shot at making the final but we have to concentrate and make no mistakes, but everybody is focused."
Elsewhere on Saturday, 2008 champions Vietnam take on Myanmar to kick off proceedings in Group A.
ESPN STAR Sports will broadcast all 18 matches with the most extensive online coverage on the AFF Suzuki Cup. Check espnstar.com (espnstar.my or espnstar.co.id) for local TV listing & breaking news. Follow us on Twitter @espn_star (or @espnstarmy, @espnstarid) for the latest updates from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.