Luis Enrique's men take on their Basque rivals at Camp Nou in a bid to cut Madrid's four-point lead in the table but will have to do so without Suarez.
The Uruguayan had a hand in at least one goal in six of his last seven league games with eight goals and two assists though his recent exertions have caught up with him, Paco Alcacer chosen to lead the line instead.
Indeed, Messi has had a hand in at least one goal in 20 of his last 25 games against Athletic in all competitions with 20 goals and nine assists.
Barcelona badly need to take all three points against Ernesto Valverde's visitors - who have never won any of their matches at Camp Nou under his charge - as they aim to come within one point of Madrid ahead of the latter's clash at Celta Vigo, which is at risk of being cancelled.
Ivan Rakitic has been dropped following his below-par performance in last week's 1-1 draw at Real Betis, with Andre Gomes coming into the centre of midfield alongside Arda Turan and Rafinha,
Samuel Umtiti has been kept his place in a rearguard that will need to keep out Athletic talent Inaki Williams, who starts in place of Aritz Aduriz.
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Vidal, Pique, Umtiti, Mathieu; Rafinha, Gomes, Turan; Messi, Alcacer, Neymar
Subs: Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Mascherano, Roberto, Denis Suarez, Cillessen, Alba
Athletic XI: Iraizoz; De Marcos, Alvares, Laporte, Balenziaga; San Jose, Iturraspe; Lekue, Garcia, Munian; Williams
Subs: Boveda, Extebarria, Susaeta, Saborit, Goni, Gargallo, Aduriz